Tue. Sep 21st, 2021

MANILA – Granting ABS-CBN a provisional franchise is unconstitutional.

So said former Associate Justice Antonio Carpio as he cautioned senators against approving a bill granting a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN.

Doing so, Carpio said, would allow ABS-CBN to go back on air on free TV and radio but the former member of the high court cautioned the move would undermine all other franchises.

Similar legal concerns were also raised earlier particularly by outspoken lawyer Larry Gadon and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, president of opposition Liberal Party as they claimed that the House grossly violated the Constitution governing the process of approval on House bills.

During the House’s session last May 13 where the lower chamber convened into a Committee of the Whole, House Bill No. 6732 that is seeking to grant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise until October 31, 2020, the bill was immediately deliberated and eventually approved on second reading on the same day.

In an interview over DZAR Radio, outspoken lawyer Larry Gadon immediately cried foul even as he challenged Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to step down over the House’s major booboo.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan, who is also the president of major opposition Liberal Party, also released a statement to the media claiming the Lower House’s approval of HB 6732 on the same day, on which the Speaker is the principal author, as grossly unconstitutional.

Gadon quoted Article VI Section 26. (2) of the Constitution which firmly states that “(n)o bill passed by either House shall become a law unless it has passed three readings on separate days, and printed copies thereof in its final form have been distributed to its Members three days before its passage, except when the President certifies to the necessity of its immediate enactment to meet a public calamity or emergency.”

“The senators are correct in proposing a bill to allow ABS-CBN to continue its broadcast operations. However, the senators will be committing the very same constitutional error they want to remedy if they limit the bill to ABS-CBN. If enacted into law, the bill will deny equal protection of the law to other franchisees whose franchises will expire while Congress deliberates on their renewal. Ironically, there will be discrimination in favor of ABS-CBN,” said Carpio in his Inquirer column.

“To cure this infirmity, the bill should be generic, applicable to all broadcast and telecommunication franchisees similarly situated, and retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020, covering the present and future Congresses,” he added.

Carpio also stressed the National Telecommunications (NTC) “discriminate unfairly” against ABS-CBN when it issued a cease and desist order against the media giant on May 5, or a day after its franchise expired.

Carpio said this is the first time the NTC has ordered a broadcast company to go off the air after it allowed other firms, such as Vanguard Radio Network (VRN), Catholic Media Network (CMN) and Isla Communications that were allowed to remain on air despite having a lapsed franchise.

“Any extension of the term of a broadcast or telecommunications franchise must be embodied in a law. Without a franchise embodied in a law, a broadcast or telecommunications company cannot operate and cannot be issued any authority by the NTC. This was the ruling of the Supreme Court in the 2003 case of Associated Communications v. NTC,” said Carpio.

“Absent the intervention of the Supreme Court, only a general law allowing ABS-CBN to continue broadcasting can prevent its radio and TV stations from being silenced until the end of the term of President Duterte,” he added. (ia/SovereignPH.com)

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