By Mario Casayuran
Opposition Senator Francis N. Pangilinan expressed fears on May 14, Thursday, for a possible constitutional violation by the House of Representatives when its Committee of the Whole passed on second reading of a bill giving ABS-CBN a short-term franchise.
He cited a constitutional provision requiring the passage of a bill on three readings on separate days unless it is certified by the President as urgent.
The first and second readings were approved on the same day, he pointed out.
Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party (LP), said he witnessed how the Senate’s co-equal chamber fast-tracked on May 13 the approval of the provisional franchise bill of ABS-CBN.
“In a few hours after its filing, the Committee of the Whole approved HB 6732 on first and second reading, and is expected to vote on it on third reading early next week. It was a display of how measures in the chamber can easily [overcome] hurdle[s], if the leadership wills it,” he said.
Pangilinan stressed that he “wants ABS-CBN to be back on air as we know its operation is crucial in ensuring the free flow of life-saving information and in keeping the jobs of thousands of people.”
“However, we want our courses of action to be right—from the bill’s landing at the House plenary to its transmittal to the Senate for our own deliberation—so that we will have a provisional franchise that is legally and constitutionally firm and unassailable,” he said.
He cited Article VI Section 26. (2) of the Constitution, which states that “no bill passed by either House shall become a law unless it has passed three readings on separate days, and printed copies thereof in its final form have been distributed to its Members three days before its passage, except when the President certifies to the necessity of its immediate enactment to meet a public calamity or emergency.”
Pangilinan stressed that it is within the power of the House to set this right, and soon.
He pointed out that the nod of the House and the Senate would also not automatically allow the network to operate, as the bill has to secure a final approval from the President.
Pangilinan, however, was not satisfied with the House bill that allows ABS-CBN to resume operations up to Oct. 31, 2020 only.
“While we look forward to the provisional franchise, we hope to tackle in the near future measures granting the network a renewed 25-year franchise to finally resurrect its operations,” he said.