‘Law, not Constitution, requires broadcast franchise’

    ALBAY Rep. Edcel Lagman. (Contributed photo)

    ALBAY Rep. Edcel Lagman yesterday called out presidential spokesman Harry Roque for allegedly giving the public wrong information on the legal basis for requiring broadcast media companies to secure a legislative franchise before they can operate.

    The House committee on legislative franchises, adopting the recommendation of a technical working group, on Friday denied the application of media giant ABS-CBN Corp. for a renewal of its broadcast franchise.

    Roque, in a radio interview on the same day, defended the committee’s 70-11 vote, saying “the Constitution clearly requires that a legislative franchise is needed for the exercise of the freedom of the press…” The full transcript of the interview was posted on the website of the Presidential Communication Operations Office.

    Lagman pointed out that the requirement Roque referred to is not found in any provision of the Constitution.

    “This justification is erroneous because nowhere in the Constitution are mass media outlets required to secure a legislative franchise from the Congress,” the minority bloc member said.

    The requirement, he pointed out, was imposed by a pre-World War 2 law that has never been reviewed or modified since it was passed 89 years ago.

    “It was Congress which empowered itself to grant radio stations, which was later interpreted to include television stations, a franchise under the Radio Control Act of 1931 or Act No. 3846 which has survived unrepealed up to today,” Lagman said.

    He said Section 1 of Act No. 3846 provides: “No person, firm, company or corporation shall construct, install, establish, or operate a radio transmitting station or a radio receiving station used for commercial purposes, or a radio broadcasting station, without having first obtained a franchise therefor from the Congress of the Philippines.”

    He reminded Roque that it was this same law that was invoked by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) when it issued a “cease and desist order” in stopping the operation of ABS-CBN Corp. in May after its franchise expired.

    On the other hand, the pertinent provision on mass media in the Constitution is Sec. 11 of Art. XVI which provides that the “ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens.”

    Lagman said this provision on mass media does not impose the requirement of securing a prior legislative franchise from the Congress.

    He added that the constitutional provision requiring legislative franchise refers to public utilities, although neither the Constitution nor any statute classifies mass media enterprises as public utilities.

    11,000 WORKERS

    Vice President Leni Robredo, in her radio program BiSErbisyong Leni aired over dzXL, said the denial of the ABS-CBN franchise hurt the interest of ordinary Filipinos more than the company investors.

    She noted that 11,000 regular and contractual workers of ABS-CBN are in danger of joining the ranks of the unemployed while thousands more whose livelihood depends on support services on the country’s biggest media outfit are also staring hunger in the face.

    “In one of my visits in Payatas, a priest there told me me that there are several families there whose subsistence are reliant on ABS-CBN. These are the stuntmen, those who operate lightings, the extras… what will happen to them?” she said.

    She also called attention to the plight of Filipino households in remote areas that only the signal of ABS-CBN can reach.

    “They have just lost their only source of crucial information. The same problem has been inflicted on our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who have lost their link to the Filipino Channel,” Robredo said.

    Detained Sen. Leila de Lima hit remarks of Sen. Ronald dela Rosa who told some 11,000 ABS-CBN employees last week to just look for another job if the network’s franchise renewal is turned down by the House of Representatives.

    She said it “smacks of insensitivity and callousness, if not downright arrogance.”

    “Paano sila makakahanap ng trabaho eh may pandemiya nga? (How can they look for jobs in the middle of a pandemic?),” De Lima said in a statement from Camp Crame.

    De Lima said Dela Rosa should be reminded that most Filipinos have no jobs because the President “failed miserably in his promise to address labor woes such as providing decent and regular jobs to Filipino workers and ending pernicious practice of contractualization.”

    De Lima also slammed the congressmen who voted against the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, and all other sectors that she said give in to the caprices of Duterte.

    She said the people must never forget what these puppets did to our country.

    The Nagkaisa Labor Coalition (NAGKAISA) said it was shocked by the decision of Rep. Raymund Mendoza of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines party-list group to vote against the franchise renewal.

    NAGKAISA chairman Sonny Matula said the decision goes against the TUCP’s position favoring a franchise renewal.

    “The members of NAGKAISA, as well as other trade unions and workers’ groups, were all in shock upon learning that one of NAGKAISA’s convenors, TUCP party-list Representative and TUCP president Rep. Mendoza, did not toe the line and set aside the jobs of 11,000 workers and the means of survival of their families by voting to deny ABS-CBN a franchise,” said Matula.

    He also said Mendoza has said he will explain his vote “in due time.”

    Elmer Labog of the Kilusang Mayo Uno said, “We are really surprised, to say the least, about TUCP not supporting even the interest of the 11,000 workers, who would lose their jobs at the ABS-CBN.” — With Raymond Africa and Gerard Naval

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