Santos, Lagman file bills reviving franchise of ABS CBN

Published January 18, 2021, 8:32 PM

by Ben Rosario

Key supporters of ABS-CBN’s return on the air launched Monday the difficult task of reviving the network giant by filing separate bills proposing to grant the broadcast station a 25-year legislative franchise.

Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman filed House Bill 8298 and 8322, respectively, to bring back ABS-CBN in the airwaves, six months after this chance was rejected by a vote by  the House Committee on Legislative Franchise chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez.

Santos and her son, Luis Manzano worked for ABS-CBN as contract stars of the network.

Santos and Lagman’s moves followed a Senate action by Senate President Vicente sotto III who filed a similar bill early this month.

However, HB 8298 and 8322 were referred for action before the legislative franchise panel which had already voted to lay on the table the dozen bills containing ABS-CBN’s bid for a fresh 25 year legislative franchise.

Included in the bills were congressional franchise proposals authored by Lagman and Santos.

It will be recalled that the franchise panel voted 70-11 to deny all bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise. 
Santos and Lagman, together with other ABS-CBN backers in the Lower House, face the daunting task of convincing the committee to reconsider last year’s decision not to act anymore on the pending legislative franchise.

However, several House members, all of them requesting not to be named, said a plenary vote that will direct the legislative franchise panel to reconsider its decision could provide the two authors the way to have their bills acted upon by the Alvarez committee.

Earlier, Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Michael Defensor said that unless ABS-CBN pays government the P4 billion in taxes it owes, there is little chance the Lower House will reconsider the reactivation of the bills proposing a 25-year congressional franchise for the network that ceased operations last year

Defensor said the network management must also address other issues that were raised during the congressional hearings jointly conducted last year by the House Committees on Legislative Franchises and on Good Government that included the Big Dipper tax evasion controversy and the labor cases that the station was embroiled into.

“Kahit nagkaroon pa ng pagbabago ang ownership, dapat sagutin muna ang violations na nakita ng mga committee (Even if there is a change in ownership, they still have to answer the violations that the committee found)” said Defensor.

Reacting to Sotto’s filing of a bill granting ABS-CBN a legislative franchise, Defensor explained that the 1987 Constitution clearly provides that a franchise bill must originate from the Lower House. 

“Ang Senado ay pwede lamang mag-propose ng amendments  or concur sa mga  bill na galing sa Kongreso (The Senate may only propose amendments or concur with the bill sent by the Lower House),” he explained.

Defensor, former chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, pointed out that unless the Senate has received a House-approved franchise bill, there is no way senators can act on any legislative franchise measure filed before it.

On Santos’ plan to file a fresh ABS-CBN franchise bill, Defensor said the legislative franchise panel is barred against acting on the new measure unless the nearly dozen bills that the committee laid on the table are withdrawn by their respective authors.

He added that a motion for reconsideration may also be sought for the pending bills, instead.

The ABS-CBN legislative franchise issue hogged the headlines once again after Sotto revealed Monday that he has filed in the Senate a bill proposing a 25-year congressional franchise for ABS-CBN to revive the network.