Senate bill seeks to address operations of firms with expired franchises

Published June 3, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Mario B. Casayuran

The political opposition in the Senate sought on Wednesday, June 3, the passage of a measure that would allow the continued services of franchise holders until their applications for renewal has been acted upon by the agency, department, or branch of government that grants or renews such license or franchise.

The move followed a sponsorship speech of Senator Francis N. Pangilinan on Committee Report No. 100, “An Act Amending Section 18, Book VII, Chapter 3 of the Administrative Code of the Philippines.”

The filing of the bill and the subsequent committee report is related to the closure of the ABS-CBN network after the House of Representatives franchise committee failed to act on the media network’s petition for a new 25-year franchise before Congress adjourned in mid-March, the time President Duterte ordered a nationwide lockdown because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threat.

“Today, we also seek to protect and defend the right to decent work of approximately 11,000 employees of the ABS-CBN Corporation and the workers among their suppliers in their business eco system, especially amid a pandemic that has already cost our people over two million jobs.

“Senate Bill 1530, authored by Senator Franklin (M.) Drilon, proposes to amend Section 18, Book VII, Chapter 3 of the Administrative Code of the Philippines to include franchises, stating that “where a licensee or franchisee has made timely and sufficient application for renewal of a franchise or license, the same shall not expire until after finally determined by the relevant department, agency, or branch of government,” Pangilinan stressed.

The bill amends an existing provision under the Revised Administrative Code to include franchises, “making it incumbent upon the issuing authority to act on an application and avoid situations where silence or inaction could effectively bar the operations of an enterprise,” he explained.

Drilon said that while it is recognized that a franchise, license, or certificate is not a privilege, this rule must be tempered with considerations of equity, fairness, due process, and equal protection, particularly when the service being provided has been so woven into everyday life, that its abrupt cessation could give rise to devastating consequences.

He said the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shut down the largest broadcast company in the country upon lapse of its franchise.

“The application for renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise is still pending with the House of Representatives. A bill seeking to renew its franchise was filed in the House of Representatives as early as November, 2016, and was re-filed in 2019. The company’s operations were forced to an abrupt stop when the franchise was not acted upon until its expiration on May 4,” he pointed out.

“We should prevent similar incidents from happening again in the future. We cannot afford to wake up one day without water, electricity, or public transportation, only because an agency, a department, or a branch of government failed to act on the renewal before the lapse of the license or franchise,” Drilon said.