After speeding like a bullet train, House Bill No. 6732, which carries a proposed provisional franchise for ABS-CBN, appears to have stalled like a misdirected locomotive.
Although Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and the House leadership deserve to be commended for reconsidering the approval on second reading of HB 6732 to cleanse it of constitutional infirmity, they appear to have lost control of the train.
It is recalled that HB 6732 was approved on first and second reading on the same day, May 13, 2020, in blatant violation of Section 26(2) of Article VI of the Constitution which mandates that before a bill becomes a law it must “pass three readings on separate days”, unless the President certifies its immediate enactment.
President Rodrigo Duterte has not certified HB 6732 as urgent.
Unfortunately, instead of publicly admitting the bill’s flawed passage on second reading, the House leadership proffered that the bill was being recalled to allow Members of the House to further interpellate and propose amendments.
This evasive excuse opened the floodgates to innumerable proposals departing from the original intent of the bill which is to allow more time for a deliberate, judicious and comprehensive consideration of the pending bills for renewal while ABS-CBN reopens under an interim franchise.
Cayetano must not lose control of the bill’s intent, direction and eventual approval this week even as numerous proposals were made from referring the bill to the committee on legislative franchises for full-blown hearings to granting ABS-CBN a 25-year renewal, instead of a provisional franchise of only five (5) months.
It is critical and imperative for Cayetano to pursue the original intent of House Bill No. 6732 of granting the giant network a provisional franchise to operate while the House, albeit belatedly, deliberates thoroughly on the fate of the pending measures for franchise renewal.
The proposed provisional franchise cannot be abandoned as it has given hope to the resumption of ABS-CBN’s operations for the benefit of the public and the network’s employees.
Any abandonment will gravely compound the inordinate delay in the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN