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Nothing prevents senators from filing ABS-CBN bill —Sotto

Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III on Tuesday said nothing prevents any member of the senate from filing a bill to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN.

The senator last week filed a new measure for the renewal of the broadcast network's franchise, which expired in May.

Lawyer and former senatorial candidate Larry Gadon, who has previously opposed moves to grant ABS-CBN a franchise renewal, has called on Sotto to withdraw the filing, calling it "procedurally infirm and in gross violation of the present Philippine Constitution."

Gadon argued that the measure goes against Section 24 of the Constitution that mandates that private bills "shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments."

Sotto, however, said his move did no such contradiction. "Yes, private bills emanate from the HOR, when passed on three readings. But there is nothing that prevents any senator from filing a bill of local application or private bill as long as we await its counterpart passage from the lower house before we approve it. A first year law student knows that," Sotto told GMA News Online in a text message.

Gadon also claimed that the Senate President had used "outdated and antiquated data" from citing ratings from September 2019 and published in October 2019. Sotto did not respond to that particular claim in Gadon's letter.

ABS-CBN went off the air last May following the expiration of its 25-year legislative franchise. In July, a House of Representatives panel voted to deny the network's franchise application.

In his letter, Gadon argued that ABS-CBN's franchise could no longer be subject to the renewal after it expired.

Last week, Sotto filed Senate Bill No. 1967 seeking to renew the franchise granted to ABS-CBN to construct, install, operate, and maintain television and radio broadcasting stations in the Philippines for another 25 years.

"New [House] Speaker, new officers. [There] could be a better chance," Sotto said in a message along with his filing. Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco replaced Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, who has also been critical of ABS-CBN, as House Speaker last October.

Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos will file a counterpart to Sotto's bill in the House of Representatives.

Gadon has been a vocal critic of moves to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise, previously asking senators to recuse themselves from voting on the measure — a proposal the Sotto rejected. The Supreme Court last year junked Gadon's petition against the issuance of a provisional authority for ABS-CBN, due to his lack of legal standing to file the case—with a report from Dona Magsino/JST, GMA News