Press Release
February 23, 2020

Drilon: Hearing on ABS-CBN franchise constitutional

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday defended the decision of the Senate to hear the application for franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation while the matter is still pending in the House of Representatives.

Drilon, a four-time Senate President, refuted claims that the hearing on February 24 by the Senate Committee of Public Services, chaired by Senator Grace Poe, on the franchise of ABS-CBN is "unconstitutional."

"We are saddened by the accusation. That is not true. There is nothing wrong and unconstitutional if we hear the franchise of ABS-CBN," Drilon said.

Drilon, citing the case of Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance (G.R. No. 115455), said that the Constitution does not prohibit the senate from hearing a proposed measure "in anticipation of its receipt of the bill from the house."

"We've done it for the national budget and other revenue measures. We've heard proposals while waiting for the House version," he said.

"The House of Representatives is aware of this practice. Since time immemorial, we have been hearing the budget simultaneously with the House of Representatives only that we do not debate on this on the floor until we receive the House version," he explained.

"Our former colleagues who are now members of the lower chambers knew about this practice and they participated in hearings of this nature when they were in the Senate. They did not say it was unconstitutional then," Drilon added.

Section 24, Article VI of the Constitution states that "all appropriation, revenue or tariff bills, bills authorizing increase of the public debt, bills of local application, and private bills shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments."

Drilon said that the matter has been settled in the above-mentioned case wherein the Supreme Court upheld the power of Senate to file and hear local bills "so long as action by the Senate as a body is withheld pending receipt of the House bill."

In the said case, the Supreme Court clearly stated: "What the Constitution simply means is that the initiative for filing revenue, tariff, or tax bills, bills authorizing an increase of the public debt, private bills and bills of local application must come from the House of Representatives on the theory that, elected as they are from the districts, the members of the House can be expected to be more sensitive to the local needs and problems. On the other hand, the senators, who are elected at large, are expected to approach the same problems from the national perspective. Both views are thereby made to bear on the enactment of such laws. Nor does the Constitution prohibit the filing in the Senate of a substitute bill in anticipation of its receipt of the bill from the House, so long as action by the Senate as a body is withheld pending receipt of the House bill."

With only seven session days before the adjournment of Congress on March March 11, Drilon said taking up the franchise of ABS-CBN is made even more necessary.

Drilon also stressed that the hearing should also rule on the need to extend the validity of the franchise of ABS-CBN, maintaining that the broadcasting network cannot operate without a franchise. The 25-year franchise of the broadcasting network is set to expire on March 30.

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