The Senate committee on public services chaired by Senator Grace Poe would start deliberating on the franchise of giant media company ABS-CBN on February 24, Monday.
On the other hand, as former majority leader, Senator Francis Pangilinan said holding parallel hearings in the Senate on bills that should emanate from the House of Representatives (HOR) such as the budget bill, tax bills or franchise messures, is standard parliamentary practice for decades now.
“It is certainly consistent with the law and parliamentary practice,” stressed Pangilinan.
Pangilinan was reacting to the remarks of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano that the senators were violating the Constitution when they agreed to hold the hearing on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise even as the House is yet to start its own hearing on the same issue.
Cayetano has asserted that the franchise bills should emanate from the House.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said Cayetano may have a point since the Constitution provides that bills of local application like franchise measures must emanate from the HOR.
But, he said Cayetano is wrong in equating it to the “Cha-cha issue” though since as practiced, the Senate conduct committee hearings on tax and budget measures even before the HOR has transmitted their approved version of bill to the Senate.
Cayetano said he was baffled by Poe and the senators because they were evasive in the issue of cha-cha and don’t want to discuss it, but “they feel free to violate the Constitution when it comes to the franchise issue.”
Lacson contradicted Cayetano and insisted that what can be considered as blatantly violative of the constitution is if the committee chairperson reports out on the Senate floor for plenary debates the committee report which “we have not done and will never do.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto defended the Senate and his colleagues and rejected the claim of Cayetqno that they were going against the Constitution.
“Not al all,” replied Sotto when pressed if there would be violations in case the senators proceeded with the franchise hearing on Monday.
He said a committee hearing is not the Senate. He noted that a committee report becomes Senate business.
Committee chairpersons are authorized to hear what their committee thinks should be heard. It remains their comm business, Sotto said.
The House has not yet scheduled hearing on the 11 bills are pending in the lower chamber seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.
Republic Act No. 3846 requires television and radio broadcasting companies to secure a franchise from the government before they are allowed to operate. It is Congress that will decide whether to extend the franchise to public utilities, such as the media.
However, despite the calls from a number of lawmakers for the House committee on legislative franchises to tackle the issue, hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise remains unscheduled.
Cayetono said no one was saying forgo the discussion on the franchise.
“What I’m saying is if we set the hearing now, Congress would spend so much of its time and energy on this matter. No one would attend the other House hearings.
Asked when the “right timing” will be to hear ABS-CBN’s franchise, Cayetano said it’s July or August./Stacy Ang