To cleanse the passage of HB No. 6732 granting a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN of any constitutional infirmity and to accommodate a longer effectivity of at least one year for the interim franchise, a motion to reconsider the approval on second reading of the said bill can be seasonably filed on Monday, May 18, 2020.
The precipitate approval on second reading of House Bill No. 6732 last Wednesday, May 13, 2020, on the same day it underwent first reading, has raised a serious constitutional challenge for violation of Section 26 (2) of Article VI of the Constitution.
The provision states that “No bill passed by either House shall become a law unless it has passed three readings on separate days, and printed copies thereof in its final form have been distributed to its Members three days before its passage, except when the President certifies to the necessity of its immediate enactment to meet a public calamity or emergency.”
This provision is restated almost verbatim in Section 58 of Rule X of the Rules of the House.
Fr. Joaquin Bernas, an authority on constitutional law and a Commissioner of the 1986 Constitutional Commission which drafted the 1987 Constitution, opined that “in order to ensure a more thorough study of the bills, Section 26 (2), copying the text of Article VIII, Section 19 (2) of the 1973 Constitution, not only requires that there be three separate readings but also that the separate readings be on ‘separate days’.”
The immediate enactment of HB No. 6732 is not certified as urgent by the President as to expedite the proceedings and liberalize the rule on “three readings on separate days”.
The express process held for the passage of the “Bayanihan Act” or R.A. 11469 where the first, second, and third readings were conducted in one special session day cannot be invoked as a precedent because in that case there was a presidential certification of urgency.
Under Sec. 103 of Rule XIII of the House Rules, a motion for reconsideration of an action on a measure may be filed “on the same or succeeding session day” following the approval of such measure. Thus, the filing of such motion falls at the latest on Monday, May 18, 2020, since there were no sessions from May 14, 2020 to May 17, 2020.
After the timely reconsideration, and with possible introduction of amendments to House Bill No. 6732, the bill can be approved on second reading on May 18, 2020, which is a separate session day.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque previously announced that the President is inclined to sign or approve a bill on the extension of ABS-CBN’s franchise provided it has no constitutional defects.
Consequently, there is need to remove any cloud of doubt on the constitutionality of the passage of HB No. 6732 to foreclose any reason for a presidential veto.
Another ground for the reconsideration is to enable the Plenary to reopen the period of amendments to accommodate a longer effectivity of the provisional franchise for at least one year or sometime up to "July 2021", as suggested by some Senators.
This compromise will preclude a lengthy and contentious bicameral conference which may derail the enactment of the provisional franchise and prolong the closure of ABS-CBN.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN