MANILA – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday said the “public service time” requirement for embattled media network ABS-CBN in the proposed provisional franchise would be favorable to the government in widening its reach, especially in times of crisis.
During the plenary session, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez questioned the “public service time” provision in House Bill 6732, which requires the network to allocate 10 percent of its paid advertisements to the national government, as it violates the equal protection of the law.
Cayetano, however, argued that such provision was already included in the franchises of GMA Network and TV5.
“Equal protection of the law, the concept says that the law has to be equally applied to those who are similarly situated… If you look at Channel 5 or Channel 7, the same provision is found there,” Cayetano said. “I’d rather that we amend the existing franchises and put it in rather than take this out because this is favorable to the government.”
According to the measure, the public service time shall enable the government to reach pertinent populations on important public issues and relay important public announcements and warnings concerning public emergencies and calamities as necessity, urgency, or law require.
“Can you imagine if 2,3,4,5 years ago, all of our giant TV networks would have this provision? We would have been much more prepared for Covid-19,” Cayetano said.
He stressed that all franchises should have this provision to address the issue on equal protection.
“Lastly if you look at the profits of our giant networks, the 10 percent will not affect their bottomline, will not affect their stock market prices, will not affect severely their income, but it will give a great advantage to the government to be able to communicate with our people directly,” he said.
The House of Representatives on Monday reconsidered its second reading approval of House Bill 6732 seeking to grant media giant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise valid until Oct. 31, 2020.
The chamber has also re-opened the periods of interpellations and amendments to the measure.
Some lawmakers questioned the constitutionality of the bill’s second reading approval, citing the Constitution that no bill shall become law unless it has passed three readings on separate days.
The bill was read on first reading and approved on second reading during a plenary session on Wednesday.
Deputy Speaker Luis Ray Villafuerte, sponsor of the measure, reiterated that the legislative procedures of the chamber regarding the provisional franchise bill are “constitutional” and “not defective”.
“It is my stand that this 18th Congress passed House Bill 6732 on first and second reading on the same day, [that] is constitutionally sound,” he said. (IA/PNA)