House panel sets rules for hearings on ABS-CBN franchise bills

Ronito Calunsod, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 10 2020 05:05 PM | Updated as of Mar 10 2020 08:14 PM

The House Committee on Legislative Franchises holds a hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise bills in the House of Representatives in Quezon City on March 10, 2020. Christian Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) - The House Committee on Legislative Franchises adopted on Tuesday a set of rules for its hearings on bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN Corp. and two of its subsidiaries new franchises.

Aside from general rules for lawmakers such as sticking to the allotted 3-minute period for each solon who wishes to speak, being respectful of others' opinions, and avoiding redundancy, the House panel chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez also decided to limit the number of journalists who will cover inside the hearing venue due to space constraints.

"We are setting ground rules today to guide our members in the future hearings for the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise. We may expect some members to become emotional on the matter at hand and setting up ground rules will ensure orderly proceedings in our hearings," Alvarez said.

Under the rules, congressmen who will take part in the proceedings can alternately ask or speak, albeit subject to the 3-minute rule, based on their membership either in the majority, minority, or as an independent.

As proposed by Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, an author of one of the pending measures, those who wish to speak need to pre-register with the committee secretariat so they can be called chronologically during the actual proceedings.

Those against the bills will have the floor first, followed by those in favor. The undecided ones will speak last.

The 3-minute limit applies to authors of the bills when they deliver their sponsorship speech. Invited representatives of regulatory agencies, however, will be given sufficient time to present their respective positions.

The following specific rules proposed by Committee Vice Chairperson Antonio "Tonypet" Albano were also adopted:

  • suspension by the chair of the allotted time to a lawmaker or guest who speaks expletives, indecent and unparliamentary remarks, or who acts in a disruptive manner;
  • declaration of unparliamentary statements to be stricken off the record; and,
  • limiting to two media personnel per outfit inside the conference room, and the possible accreditation for covering the hearings, if the space cannot accommodate all.

"On voting, members shall inhibit on account of personal or pecuniary interest," Pimentel said.

Position papers of various stakeholders must be submitted to the House legislative franchises committee on or before April 15, and the committee secretariat is tasked to summarize the issues to be provided to all members. Those who fail to meet the deadline may not be invited to the hearings.

As proposed by Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, no walk-in guests will be allowed.

He also stressed that ABS-CBN will be allowed to confirm, explain or rebut any issues brought up.

Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones, who used to be a reporter of ABS-CBN, appealed to her colleagues to remain calm as she expects emotions to run high during the hearings.

"Gaano man kataas minsan ang ating emosyon ay panatilihin pa rin natin ang respeto sa ating mga bisita becasue at the end of the day, ang bisita ay bisita at dapat ay nirerespeto (guests are guests and they need to be respected)," she said.

Pending before the committee are 11 bills for the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp., and one each for ABS-CBN Convergence and SkyCable.

The current franchise of ABS-CBN Corp, the country's largest media and entertainment company that operates free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM, expires on May 4.

Several House leaders have enjoined the National Telecommunications Commission to issue ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate until the proceedings for the pending bills have been completed.

The committee did not set a date for the next proceeding. Congress goes on a break on Wednesday and will resume session on May 4.

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