Press Release
January 7, 2022

Drilon defends SBN 1530 against OSG attacks, cites DOJ backs bill on non-expiration of franchise with pending renewal application in Congress

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon raised the opinion made by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Solicitor General Jose Calida's boss, to dispute and counter the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) which called "unconstitutional and illegal" the proposed legislation that 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.

"Justice Secretary Guevarra, on several occasions, has rendered an opinion which acknowledges a gap in the law concerning the grant of legislative franchises by Congress. Senate Bill No. 1530 simply seeks to address the gap in the law cited by our good justice secretary," Drilon said in a statement on Friday.

Drilon also stressed that the Department of Justice, in its official position paper expressing support for SBN 1530, said that there is "nothing legally objectionable in the passage of a law of general application which allows the grantee of a franchise to operate while its application for renewal is being deliberated by Congress, it being an adjunct of its franchising, power which, in turn, is an adjunct of its legislative power."

"It's all a matter of equity that we want to address here, nothing else," he added.

"Driven by nothing but the common good and the rule of law, the DOJ's official position and the Justice Secretary's opinion which he made public on various occasions carry a lot more weight and credibility," he added.

Drilon called on Congress to immediately enact the measure when it resumes session on January 17 and takes a long break for the campaign period on February 4.

Drilon cited Guevarra's statement during a Senate hearing in 2020 where the justice secretary expressly stated that "When there is a gap in the law, equity comes in to fill the gap. Equity is the principle by which substantial justice may be a thing in cases where the prescribed or customary forms of ordinary law are inadequate."

During that hearing, Drilon recalled, Guevarra even cited that "considerations of equity have apparently been applied in previous similar situations presented earlier namely, among others, PT&T, SMART Communications, Incorporated, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Incorporation. All of whom were allowed to operate despite expired franchises as long as the application for the renewal of these franchises were lodged with the Congress before the lapse of their term."

Drilon said the justice secretary's position was cited in Senate Resolution No. 395, adopted by the Senate in May 2020, which expressed the sense of the Senate to reconsider its cease and desist order against ABS-CBN Corp.

"It is acknowledged that there is a gap in the law in cases as exhibited in cases where a franchisee, having taken all the steps to renew its franchise, is unable to do so not due to its own fault, but due to Congress' failure to act on the application," Drilon said.

"The amendment we propose would require the concerned agency or branch of government to act decisively on an application for renewal, and to express its decision in clear, unmistakable terms, to ensure that the applicant is not punished for the authority's indecision or inaction," Drilon said.

Drilon, who authored Senate Bill No. 1530, said the measure seeks to provide an immediate solution to dilemmas being faced by franchise applicants whose renewal of legislative franchises have been filed but remained pending in Congress.

The measure was passed on second reading before Congress went into Christmas break last December 14.

SBN 1530 seeks the non-expiration of legislative franchises that are pending in Congress by amending Section 18, Book VII, Chapter 3 of Revised Administrative Code, Drilon explained. The Revised Administrative Code 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.

Drilon's amendment only expands the said provision to also include franchises granted by Congress.

When the bill was tackled in the committee, various sectors including the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) threw its support behind the measure.

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

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