By Mario Casayuran
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said today the grant of extension of the franchise of ABS-CBN remains in the hands of Congress.
Lacson said the extension of the expired ABS-CBN franchise could be granted through a joint or separate resolution by either the Senate or the House of Representatives.
“While a franchise renewal or approval rests on the Congress by way of legislation, subject to the concurrence or veto by the President, an extension of the existing franchise by way of a separate or joint resolutions adopted by either or both houses of Congress has no existing jurisprudence as far as I know,” he explained.
Considering the many legal ramifications of this issue, Lacson said this could be a good test case to be decided by the Supreme Court.
Although the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) might grant provisional authority to ABS CBN for it to operate, it is still Congress that decides whether the network would be granted a new franchise or not, he added.
Some senators maintained that NTC could grant a provisional authority to ABS-CBN to continue with its operations because it has done so previously.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the NTC has given every year provisional authority to applicants as their franchises near their expiration dates.
“It’s very clear that the NTC may give provisional authority to those applying for franchises and their franchises have expired,” Zubiri said in a teleconference with Senate reporters.
“I do not see any reason why they should not do so,” he added.
On the other hand, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said the Senate has already discussed the issue of a provisional authority to be given to ABS-CBN.
“That issue has been settled during our hearings. I expect the NTC to allow [ABS-CBN] to continue to operate until Congress makes a final decision regarding franchise within this Congress,” Recto said.
Department of Justice (DOH) Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said there is basis on grounds of equity to allow the broadcast network to continue its operations while it awaits its petition for a renewal of its franchise.
Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said, ‘’Congress has expressed the same opinion and it has support in past legislative and executive practice.’’
Before it went on a long recess last March, the Senate had passed resolutions allowing the grant of a provisional permit to ABS-CBN for its continued operation.
The House of Representatives, on the other hand, wrote the NTC that it could allow ABS-CBN to operate while waiting for a congressional decision on its application for a franchise renewal.