Palace won’t block new ABS-CBN franchise, says Roque

Published May 6, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin


By Genalyn Kabiling

Will President Duterte sign or veto the franchise bill of ABS-CBN media network if and when it reaches his desk?

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (Jansen Romero/ MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque
(Jansen Romero/ MANILA BULLETIN)

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the President will not block the enactment of a law granting the franchise renewal of the media entity as long as it adheres to the Constitution.

“If it reaches (the President’s) desk, for as long as there is no constitutional infirmity, then he will not object to the law,” Roque said in a television interview Wednesday.

The Lopez-owned media giant shut down its broadcast operations Tuesday night in compliance with the cease and desist order issued by National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on the expiry of its 25-year legislative franchise last May 4.

Many groups have denounced the closure order against the network as an attack on press and media freedom.

Roque said the President has opted to stay “neutral” and would leave to Congress to act on the network’s franchise bill.

He insisted that Congress, not the President, has the authority to grant and renew franchises of broadcast entities. The Palace official said he had a 20-minute conversation with the President about the issue Tuesday night.

“I think getting the franchise could be a speedier remedy for ABS-CBN, and that is why the President has asked me to tell the lawmakers that he is absolutely neutral in this regard. There is no double speak here. The congressmen can vote according to their conscience, and the President will not take it against them,” he said.

Amid calls for the President to rescind the NTC order against ABS-CBN, Roque said that Duterte cannot interfere with the decision of the independent quasi-judicial body.

“It is only attached to the DICT for purposes of policies and programs, but its decisions are not even reviewable by the Office of the President. These can only be reviewed by our courts ‘no, either the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court,” he said.

“So I think that makes it very clear that there is no way that the President could influence a decision of a quasi-judicial body. Now in law, this is known as doctrine of primary jurisdiction in specialized matters such as on the issue of broadcast franchises, we leave it to those with specialized competence to deal with the matter,” he added.

Roque also noted that the quo warranto petition filed by the Solicitor General against the network before the Supreme Court has become moot.

“The matter is pending in court, but I think the quo warranto is on the remaining life of the franchise which obviously had become moot because the franchise had already expired,” he said.

Read more: NTC orders ABS-CBN to stop operations