Senate starts franchise hearing today

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    AMID conflicting views from lawmakers, the Senate will start hearing today matters concerning TV network ABS-CBN Corporation, whose franchise is being questioned by government before the Supreme Court.

    Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon yesterday defended the decision of the Senate public services committee to hear the network’s application for franchise renewal while the House has not tackled bills seeking to extend the franchise.

    Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said it will be violation of the Constitution as franchise bills should emanate from the House.

    Drilon, a former justice secretary and a four-time Senate president, said the matter has been settled by the Supreme Court and the Senate has done it before for national budget and other revenue measures.

    “We’ve done it for the national budget and other revenue measures. We’ve heard proposals while waiting for the House version,” he said.

    “The House of Representatives is aware of this practice. Since time immemorial, we have been hearing the budget simultaneously with the House of Representatives only that we do not debate on this on the floor until we receive the House version,” he added.

    He said that while the Constitution states that “all appropriation, revenue or tariff bills, bills authorizing increase of the public debt, bills of local application, and private bills shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives,” the Senate may propose or concur with amendments.

    Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara shared Drilon’s views.

    “The hearing by the committee is only meant to facilitate the process and in case of the franchise of ABS-CBN, to hear the issues being raised against the network so that when time comes, we as senators, would already have a better grasp of the matter,” Angara said.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III said today’s hearing will only talk about resolutions filed by senators to determine if the network has committed violations of its franchise, “not the franchise per se.”

    Sotto’s statement contradicts that of Sen. Grace Poe, Senate public service committee chair, who said in a press conference last week that her committee will hear the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.

    Sen. Christopher Go said it best to hear the matter to settle once and for all issues surrounding the network.

    Cayetano last week said the House can begin tackling bills seeking to extend the network’s franchise only in the first week of August.

    The 25-year franchise granted by Congress is set to expire on March 30. Solicitor General Jose Calida has filed a quo warranto petition against the network and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., for alleged violation of the terms of franchise.