It will be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not a people's initiative can be used to grant a franchise for ABS-CBN Corporation, Malacañang said Sunday.
In a statement over the weekend, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr. said Malacañang will defer to the Supreme Court should it decide on the issue.
"We also take note of the discussions around using the mechanism of the people's initiative to grant ABS-CBN a franchise," he said.
He was referring to Republic Act 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act which provides a system where the public can directly propose and enact laws or approve or reject any act or law or part thereof as passed by Congress.
This comes as several lawyers have raised the possibility of invoking RA 6735 to grant a franchise for ABS-CBN, after a House panel voted to deny the broadcaster's franchise application.
Human rights lawyer and former senatorial candidate Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno was among those who vocalized that the people's initiative could be used to revive ABS-CBN's franchise bid.
A recent survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) found that majority of Filipinos or 75% are in favor of Congress renewing the ABS-CBN franchise.
Roque said, however, that Republic Act 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Act, has "clear wording."
"Whether the franchise of ABS-CBN may be granted through a people's initiative despite the clear wording of RA 7925, whether it matters that a franchise bill is a private bill that must "originate exclusively in the House of Representatives" in accordance with Article VI, Section 24 of the Constitution—these and related questions we leave to the Supreme Court, as the final arbiter of the appropriate interpretation of these provisions in the Constitution and our laws," he said.
To recall, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Diosdado Peralta as the Supreme Court Chief Justice. The Peralta court is now mostly composed of Duterte appointees.
Prior to the decision of the House Panel, Duterte consistently threatened to oppose the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise, as he earlier claimed the network did not air political advertisements during the 2016 election campaign which were already paid for.
Several business groups such as the Makati Business Club called on Congress to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN to ensure equal treatment of all businesses and effectively boost investor sentiment.
Government agencies such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Department of Justice (DOJ), have cleared ABS-CBN Corporation from violations. — BM, GMA News