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Atienza to House legislative franchises chair: Act on bills seeking ABS-CBN renewal or resign

Chairman Franz Alvarez of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises should resign if his Committee continues its "foot-dragging" over the pending bills seeking the franchise renewal of broadcasting company ABS-CBN, Buhay party-list Representative Jose “Lito” Atienza said Monday. 

Atienza, in a spirited privilege speech on Monday, noted that the bills seeking the franchise renewal for ABS-CBN have been gathering dust with less than two months before the franchise expires on March 30, and despite the bills' having been filed way back in August 2019.

“I am calling the attention of Chairman Alvarez. Every day, non-entities, unknown groups of corporations, apply for a franchise and we act on them judiciously, promptly," said Atienza, one of at least 25 lawmakers who authored bills seeking a franchise renewal for ABS-CBN.

"Why are we dragging our feet on this critical and crucial issue of the franchise renewal of a television network that is part and parcel of our past, present and dependent on the future?” he added.

Atienza called on each member of Congress to demand that Alvarez and the Legislative Franchises panel act on the issue.

"Kung ayaw gumalaw ng Chairman, mag-resign na siya. Para may pwede nang pumalit na mangunguna at magde-decide,” he said.

Atienza declared that the inaction by Alvarez and his Committee is tantamount to dereliction of duty, considering that the Article 12, Section 11 of Philippine Constitution states that "no franchise, certificate, or any other form of authorization for the operation of a public utility shall be granted except to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations organized under the laws of the Philippines at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens, nor shall such franchise, certificate, or authorization be exclusive in character or for a longer period than fifty years."

The same Constitutional provision also states that "neither shall any such franchise or right be granted except under the condition that it shall be subject to amendment, alteration, or repeal by the Congress when the common good so requires, and that the State shall encourage equity participation in public utilities by the general public."

Atienza also said that given that Solicitor General Jose Calida has filed a quo warranto case seeking to void ABS-CBN's franchise due to alleged violation of the Constitutional ban on foreign ownership and bypassing authority of National Telecommunications Communication, among others, Congress should not let the Executive Department nor the Supreme Court to usurp Congress’ authority to grant or deny a franchise.

“Ang sabi, maraming kontra. Eh di pabayaan natin silang magsalita [sa hearing ng Committee]. 'Yung naniniwala na dapat ipagpatuloy ang franchise, bigyan rin ng pagkakataon magsalita. Today, the Office of the Solicitor General already filed a case before the Supreme Court. Tayo po ba ay manonood na lang na korte ang magdecide ng prangkisa?” Atienza said.

“Hindi tayo pwedeng manahimik. Our inaction will spell the weakening of the foundation of our democratic system. The Executive is already taking over our task. Let us now allow ourselves to be paralyzed,” Atienza added.

ABS-CBN has been the subject of President Rodrigo Duterte's ire, with the Chief Executive threatening to revoke its franchise multiple times.

On Monday, Malacañang denied that Duterte was behind the Solicitor General's quo warranto filing. — BM, GMA News