Lawmaker files resolution seeking to extend ABS-CBN franchise until May 2021

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2020 10:21 PM

MANILA—A lawmaker has filed a resolution that extends the expiring ABS-CBN franchise by a year, after the Senate hearing on the broadcast giant stated that the quo warranto filed against it by Solicitor General Jose Calida had no basis.

Under House Joint Resolution 29, ABS-CBN's franchise will extend until May 4, 2021, as it will expire on May 4 of this year.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said Wednesday it covers only a year-long extension since he doesn't want Congress to "dilly-dally" on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.

“Let us have this maximum. We'll have 1 year so we can also have some urgency on this," Rodriguez told reporters.

The resolution cites, among others, that ABS-CBN passed the scrutiny of all state regulators, namely the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

“That Senate hearing, it was very good because you know it clearly showed Calida’s quo warranto had no basis in law," Rodriguez said.

Calida’s petition alleged, among others, that ABS-CBN violated the constitutional ban on foreign ownership in mass media by issuing Philippine Depository Receipts to foreigners, through its holding company.

Company executives, in response, told senators that the issuance of the financial instruments complied with the law.

Rodriguez said ABS-CBN’s franchise must also be extended because of the rule of equity, or substantial justice.

”By reason of the law of equity, it (ABS-CBN franchise) can go on, and past experiences also show that other franchises are allowed to go on because of equity," the lawmaker said.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said ABS-CBN can still operate under "equity considerations" should its bid for a fresh 25-year franchise fail in Congress.

"May gap 'yong batas. Kaya we draw from equity considerations para fair. Para may substantial justice. Para walang agrabyado. As I've said, hindi naman kasalanan no'ng company na hindi pa naaaprubahan ng Kongreso 'yong kaniyang application," he said.

(There's a gap in the law. That's why we draw from equity considerations to be fair. So there will be substantial justice. So no one is put at a disadvantage. As I've said, it's not the company's fault that Congress has not approved its application.)

But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who has been pushing for the renewal hearing at the House of Representatives, said the law of equity may not apply on the issue. 

“The rule of equity does not apply when the law is clear. In the case of the ABS-CBN franchise, the law is clear. The law says that no one can engage in telecommunication enterprise without first acquiring a franchise and the act granting franchise ABS-CBN says it is good only up to 25 years from its effectivity,” Lagman said.

“When the law is clear, they apply the law.”