Palace says it will leave people’s initiative on ABS-CBN franchise to High Court

MANILA – Malacañang on Sunday said it will leave the issue of granting a franchise to media giant ABS-CBN Corporation to the Supreme Court, after some groups said a people’s initiative to revive the company’s franchise bill is feasible.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said they will leave the issue to the High Court, whether a people’s initiative applies to the case of ABS-CBN.

“Whether the franchise of ABS-CBN may be granted through a people’s initiative despite the clear wording of R.A. 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.

“We will defer to the Court if ever it rules on this issue in the future,” Roque added.

Three out of 4 Filipinos want Congress to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise, according to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released Saturday, a day after a House of Representatives committee rejected the network’s bid to resume broadcast operations.

The July 3 to 6 poll found that 57 percent of adult Filipinos “strongly” agreed that the network should be granted a fresh franchise, while 19 percent “somewhat” agreed.

Human rights lawyer Atty. Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno earlier said he believes that a proposed people’s initiative to revive ABS-CBN Corp.’s franchise bid is feasible for the network and its supporters.

Diokno said the legislative exercise requires the signature of at least 10 percent of the total voting population in the country.

The country’s telecoms regulator shut down ABS-CBN’s free TV and radio operations on May 5 after its franchise was left to expire on May 4 despite a long-pending renewal application at the Lower House.

On July, 2 alias cease and desist orders were also served by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against ABS-CBN’s digital broadcast in Metro Manila and its sister company Sky Cable’s direct broadcast satellite service nationwide.

In a historic vote of 70-11, the Committee on Legislative Franchises on Friday junked ABS-CBN’s application because the “applicant was seen as undeserving of the grant of a legislative franchise.”

ABS-CBN was first shut down in 1972 when dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law. Some 48 years later, the network was forced off the air under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

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