Senators might not have enough time for a different version of HB 6732 for grant of provisional franchise to ABS-CBN— Senator Drilon

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Senators may not have enough time to pass a different version of House Bill 6732 (HB6732) granting a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN, said Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday.

“Remember, if we adjourn on June 3 without approving a version, then that’s it. Our time is very limited. We are practically given no choice but to approve the version of the House because of the danger that the difference in versions may require a bicameral conference committee and may result in the Bicam not coming up with the recommendations by June 3 of this year and therefore with that, the franchise cannot be renewed,” Drilon said during an interview on ANC Headstart.

“The timetable is very tight. I do not know if we can amend the franchise [bill] approved by the House particularly on the period [of the franchise]. Remember the period is up to October 30,” he said.

Drilon said senators can look at the effectivity clause of the House version that was passed and make amendments, if necessary, to make the bill effective immediately.

“Hopefully, the effectivity clause is after publication. If not, I believe that it is reasonable for the Senate to propose an amendment to make it effective immediately upon publication in a newspaper of general circulation and with this reasonably the House should adopt the version of the Senate which is completely the same except for the effectivity date to avoid a Bicam Conference,” he said.

He said the Senate may approve the bill in the last week of May.

“It should get to us on Monday evening or Tuesday morning. After the House would approve it on 3rd reading, we can include it in our calendar,” he said.

The House of Representatives Committee of the Whole last Wednesday has approved on second reading a bill that gives ABS-CBN Corp. a provisional franchise until October 2020.

Following its approval on second reading, HB6732 will be scheduled for third reading for its approval by the House of Representatives.

The approved bill will then be transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence.

If a bill is approved by the Senate, copies of the bill, signed by the Senate President and Speaker of the House of the Representatives, will be transmitted to the President for his action. If a bill is approved by the President, it becomes law after publication.

At least 13 senators earlier field a bill granting ABS-CBN provisional franchise until June 2022.

It would then be referred to the Committee on Public Services of acting chairman, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

“Sen. Win Gatchalian can set a hearing for one day, 2 Mondays from now, and then it submits a report to the Senate that week and the Senate would have to act on it before it adjourns on June 3,” he said.

However, Drilon said stressed that ABS-CBN still has to wait until the bill becomes a law before it can go back on air.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque earlier said it is unlikely that President Rodrigo Duterte would veto the franchise bill of the Kapamilya network unless there is “constitutional infirmity”.

“Do not hope that it is signed by the President on the same night that it gets to him. They will go through what they assert to be constitutional infirmities and therefore that commitment of Sec. Roque is qualified that the Palace will find the renewal consistent with the Constitution, will find the operation of ABS-CBN as not violative of the constitution,” Drilon explained.

“Just again to flag you, this can be the constitutional infirmities that they can be invoked when the President acts on your franchise. I am not saying that they are going to do that. These are mentioned as a qualification in the commitment of the Palace to renew the franchise,” he said.

But Drilon said the President should also consider that when Congress acts on the franchise, there is no constitutional infirmity.

“So, that judgment must also be given appropriate respect and weight when this issue is resolved. Even the Supreme Court should take note of this opinion of Congress when the Supreme Court would finally rule on the issue which was brought by the Solicitor General,” he said.

Drilon has also filed Senate Bill 1530 or the non-expiration of franchises while applications for renewal are pending in Congress.

“The bill I filed will amend the Administrative Code so that while the application code for franchise renewal is pending in Congress then the franchise is automatically extended and this is consistent with the practice in both Houses of Congress up to today, where the application for franchise is pending, the franchise is deemed extended, the National Telecommunications Commission would not issue a cease and desist order,” Drilon said.

Drilon said he hopes to get the support from colleagues in the lower house for his bill.

“I do hope that they pass it. I appeal to them to take a good look, debate on it and see how it can fill the gap that the Justice secretary asserted while debating on the franchise of ABS-CBN,” he said.

In February, Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the Supreme Court to revoke the franchise of ABS-CBN and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., citing supposed “abuses” by the network of its franchises./Stacy Ang

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