Lawyer shoots down Sotto bill on fresh ABS-CBN franchise

Published January 8, 2021, 9:40 PM

by Ben Rosario

Controversial lawyer Larry Gadon on Friday said Senate President Vicente Sotto III relied on “antiquated” data when the senator defended his proposal to grant ABS-CBN a 25-year legislative franchise since it had remained the leading network in the country, with an 45 percent audience share against rival GMA 7’s 31 percent.


Gadon made this observation as he lectured Sotto on the legal issues raised by the senator’s filing of Senate Bill No. 1967 that sought a renewal of the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN.

In a letter to the Senate official, Gadon said it would be best to withdraw the measure from the “roster of pending Senate bills.”

Earlier this week, Sotto stirred controversy when he filed SB 1967 or “An Act Renewing the Franchise Granted to ABS-CBN Corporation Under Republic Act No. 7966.”  The bill proposes a 25 year franchise for the network.

Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep,. Vilma Santos said she will file  a similar bill in the House of Representatives although officials aired strong doubts it will be given due course because 11 similar measures have already been laid on the table since September, 2020.

In his comment, Gadon stressed that SB 1967 relied on the data from Kantar  Media which are already “old and antiquated,” pointing out that the survey on viewership preference conducted by the firm was done in September 2019 and was published a month later.

“This is no longer true as of this time,” Gadon stressed.

The same survey firm disclosed that in its Nov 1-30, 2020 study, the “top TV stations in the Philippines, released on December 8, 2020 showed that GMA7 is number one with 85.8% viewership engagement, followed by TV5 with 10.4%. “ 

ABS-CBN ranked third with 3.2 viewership although it was no longer operating a free viewing television channel  when the survey was conducted.

In his letter, Gadon said SB 1967 is “technically and legally flawed.”  He pointed out that the franchise can no longer be renewed because it had already ceased to exist following rejection of bills granting the network a fresh 25 years of legislative license to operate.

   “Mr. President, it is very elementary that a franchise can be renewed only if it is still subsisting, during its term, or prior to its expiration.  It is rather basic that an expired franchise cannot be the subject of a renewal,” explained Gadon.

  He said: “Your good self should take cognizance that ABS-CBN Corporation had ceased to operate and had “signed off the air” on the night of May 5, 2020.  Clearly, the purpose for which  Republic Act No. 7966 had already been accomplished.  Thus, it is very clear that there is nothing more to renew!”

According to Gadon the bill also contradicts Section 24 of the Constitution that mandates that private bills “shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments.”

  “It is without doubt that your filing of S.B. No. 1967 is not in accord with what is mandated by the Constitution,” he pointed out.