AS the second regular session of the 18th Congress opens Monday, lawmakers urged the leadership of the House of Representatives to reopen the debates on the issues granting ABS-CBN Corp. a new franchise in the plenary.
In an online forum over the weekend, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun and Parañaque Rep. Joy Tambunting supported the call of the Makabayan bloc to submit the resolution denying ABS-CBN’s application for a fresh 25-year franchise to the plenary for further debates.
“The plenary should be given a chance to review the vote taken by the committee. To me it [the voting done at the committee] doesn’t represent the whole [chamber]; it represented the opinion of two people [of the technical working group] concurred in by 70 [committee] members,” said Atienza.
“Let’s scrutinize the report. Let’s check word for word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, because it was clear they failed to prove any wrongdoing in the 12 hearings,” the senior lawmaker added.
The TWG report was crafted by Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia, Camiguin Rep. XJ Romualdo and Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo. However, Quimbo dissented, saying the TV network deserves a new franchise.
“We have to reopen the issue and debate on it openly in the plenary. Let’s encourage [other members] to speak up. Let’s be on record. Let’s continue this [strong call] until it reaches the plenary for open debates,” Atienza added.
For his part, Fortun said the decision to reject the franchise application was done swiftly despite 12-day lengthy hearings.
“The entire House should look at the findings of the TWG…. The term ‘laid on the table’ means the committee will no longer act on it. But it doesn’t prevent the plenary from reviewing the resolution. It can still be acted upon by the
plenary,” he said.
“The committee in its vote to kill or deny the application for franchise is definitely not on the right side, but the House as a whole may; there’s still a chance by way of correcting the mistake of the committee,” added Fortun.
Tambunting, one of the authors of the ABS-CBN franchise bill, appealed anew to the leadership for the sake of 11,000 workers of the TV network.
“There’s a chance that it may succeed. Some say it’s futile but how futile can our situation be now? If it’s a secret vote, I think there is a big chance. By secret voting, we don’t have to worry about the consequences of our votes. There are 300 [plus] House members. Only 70 voted against the franchise,” she said.
In a separate text message, Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos, one of the committee members who voted to grant the franchise, said the move to bring the matter to plenary might be an uphill climb considering the outcome of the franchise committee voting.
Last week, the Makabayan bloc, in a letter to the Committee on Legislative Franchise, urged Rep. Franz Alvarez, the panel chairman, to submit the TWG report and adopted committee resolution on the ABS-CBN franchise to the plenary for the rarification of its decision
“Majority of our people want ABS-CBN to return on air. This recent [SWS] survery is a message to our colleagues in Congress that we need to reflect on this matter in the plenary,“ said Carlos Zarate. He was referring to a report by the pollster that three-fourths of Filipinos want ABS-CBN to get back on air.
The Makabayan letter said “even if the technical working group report is the most unsure and insecure document ever approved by a committee, the fact is, it was approved by many committee members. The next step, therefore, is to resolve [these] insecurities and doubts through a plenary debate and approval.”
For his part, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said while the call of these lawmakers is possible, this is still not the regular procedure in the lower chamber.
“So is it possible? Yes. Is it a regular procedure? No,” he said.
“As a general rule, once a franchise is denied, that will no longer reach the plenary. But the plenary, under the Constitution, has all the powers. So it depends on how the House will decide,” Cayetano added.