Press Release
May 27, 2020

Bill to grant non-expiration of franchise pending in Congress gets unanimous support

A measure that seeks to provide for the non-expiration of legislative franchises pending in Congress received unanimous support at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision on Codes on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1530, authored by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, amends Section 18, Book VII, Chapter 3 of Revised Administrative Code which provides for the non-expiration of a license where the licensee has filed a timely and sufficient application for renewal, until a final determination by the agency is made. The amendment expands the provision to also include franchises granted by Congress.

The hearing was presided by the committee chairman Sen. Francis N. Pangilinan.

Drilon explained that the bill would fill the gap in cases where a franchise has expired while its renewal remains pending. Congress has applied considerations of equity in previous similar situations and the measure seeks to institutionalize that practice.

"The amendment would merely encourage the concerned agency or branch of government, including Congress, to act decisively on an application for renewal, and to express its decision in clear, unmistakable terms, ensuring that the applicant is not punished for the authority's indecision or inaction," the minority leader stressed.

The bill, once passed and enacted into law, could give ABS-CBN a chance to operate again and save its 11,000 workers from imminent retrenchment in August, Drilon said.

Former Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio expressed support to the measure, citing the "unequal protection of the law and discrimination" in the implementation of the law.

"I support the enactment into law of Senate Bill No. 1530 introduced by Sen. Drilon on the ground that it will remove the unequal protection of the law that presently exists in the renewal of franchises by Congress," Carpio said.

He noted that all holders of franchises that expired pending renewal in Congress were allowed to operate until Congress finally acted on the renewal of their franchises.

"This violates Section 1, Article III of the Constitution which guarantees equal protection of the law. Senate Bill No. 1530 remedies this unequal protection of the law," Carpio added.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) also threw its support behind the measure.

"This bill addresses the unfortunate situation wherein renewal for franchise applications are filed before expiration but are not acted upon in time," said KBP President Ruperto S. Nicdao Jr.

The KBP President said that to his recollection, there have been around 5 to 10 of its members whose franchises have expired but were allowed to continue operating, provided the application for renewal has been filed.

"In many instances, applicants for franchise renewal face the possibility of a shutdown of operations, through no fault of theirs, and at the expense of continuity of Public Service," Nicdao added.

SBN 1530 also received unanimous support from various resource persons and agencies of the executive, including the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the National Electrification Administration, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, among others.

In cases where there is no congressional franchise necessary, the NTC Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba admitted that the provision of the Administrative Code is utilized to extend in effect the license.

Drilon acknowledged and thanked those who expressed support to the measure and urged for the passage immediate passage of the bill.

Meanwhile, the NTC admitted that the quo warranto petition filed by the Solicitor General against the ABC-CBN Corporation prompted the NTC to issue a cease-and-desist order against the broadcasting network.

When asked by Drilon whether there were other instances in the past where NTC acted differently from the ABS-CBN case and did not issue a cease and desist to a network with an expiring franchise, Cordoba answered in affirmative.

Cordoba said: "Yes, your honor. We did not issue a provisional license to any broadcaster while their franchise was pending in Congress. What happened was we just allowed them to continue operating. The difference from those instances and the ABS-CBN is that in ABS-CBN, (a) case for quo warranto was actually filed by the Office of the Solicitor General. Kaya (That's why) it became untenable on our part to let it continue."

It can be recalled that during the Senate hearing on the issues regarding the ABS-CBN last February, the NTC made a commitment that it would issue a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN. Last May 5, however, the commission issued a CDO and stopped the operations of the broadcasting network.

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