House minority leader says ABS can reapply for franchise next year

Published October 23, 2020, 4:54 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

When can ABS-CBN should re-apply for franchise renewal?

Minority leader and Abang-Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano said in a recent virtual press briefing that the television and radio giant can only file for franchise renewal in 2021, since it was only this year that the House Committee on Legislative Franchises held a series of hearings on the matter.

“Ako personally (For me personally), ABS-CBN has all the time to file its renewal one year after. Kasi (Because) under our rules, they can file it again one year after,” Paduano said.

Last July 10, the Legislative Franchises panel chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez voted 70-11-1 (yes-no-abstain) to reject ABS-CBN’s franchise application, which several House members had filed in behalf of the beleaguered network.

This is the standard practice when it comes to franchises. The Lopez-owned network’s erstwhile 25-year operating franchise expired last May 5.

However, there is also an opinion that the congressmen can re-file for the franchise renewal at any time in the current 18th Congress, since a franchise renewal bill is treated just like any other measure filed in the House.

“As far as I know, there’s no prohibition on the filing or re-filing of bills that are not favorably acted upon by a committee,” a House member who requested anonymity said.

“Just like any other bill that doesn’t become a law for whatever reason – like it was vetoed, was approved by one chamber but wasn’t by the other chamber, it didn’t reach third reading, or it wasn’t acted upon by a committee – it could be filed again,” he added.

However, he noted that the timing for the re-filing isn’t as important as the practically of re-filing. “The committee that tacked your bill would basically have the same composition as before. You’re talking to the same people, so there’s no certainty of a different result,” he said.

It is rare for the Legislative Franchises panel to hear an application and reject it in the end. But then there was immense pressure from the public to hear ABS-CBN’s case, being a network popular in both its brand of programs and public service.

The recent leadership change in the House of Representatives provides an interesting dynamic to ABS-CBN’s franchise application, since Speaker Lord Allan Velasco may or may not choose to change the existing committee chairmanships. Solons would find it more sensible to re-file the franchise renewal bill if and when the Legislative Franchises panel gets revamped.

Incidentally, Velasco’s office has reportedly commenced an “evaluation” of the performance of the committee chairmen to coincide with the break in the legislative calendar. Congressmen won’t reconvene until Nov. 16.

Marinduque Rep. Velasco took over the helm from Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano last week. Cayetano served as Speaker for 15 months.