The purported ban on the grant of legislative franchise to companies which have operated for more than 50 years is definitely another non-issue based on the following reasons:
There is no constitutional provision or statute which prohibits the renewal or grant of a congressional franchise to corporations which have been in operation for more than half a century.
The question is not whether Congress can grant a renewal or new franchise for another 50 years to the same franchisee, but the issue is whether Congress can deny a franchise because the applicant has operated for more than 50 years without offending due process.
In fact, there are innumerable corporations which have been granted legislative franchises despite their long period of operation for more than 50 years like GMA 7, Bohol Chronicle Radio Corp., Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (Catholic Media Network), Rajah Broadcasting Network, and Associated Broadcasting Company or TV5, among many others, not to mention power or electric companies and telecommunications corporations which have operated for more than 100 years.
The provision in Section 11 of Article XII which reads: “No franchise, certificate, or any other forms of authorization for the operation of a public utility shall be granted … for a longer period than fifty years” only means that there must be a cap of 50 years for each franchise that the Congress may issue at a time. The limitation of 50 years pertains to every single franchise, not to the cumulative years of operation of a corporation as franchisee.
Section 11 of Article XII does not prohibit the renewal or grant of a legislative franchise to the same franchisee after the lapse of 50 years.
A contrary interpretation is errant and counter-productive because it would be a flawed and unconstitutional policy of disqualifying a corporation from securing a renewal or grant of a franchise because of “old age”.
Corporations, like wine, become better due to the passage of time.
Corporations which have been in operation for more than 50 years have more tremendous investments, have gained invaluable experience and expertise, and have indubitable patronage. They should be allowed to continue serving the public and the nation instead of retiring them to oblivion.
With respect to mass media, there is a special and more pertinent provision under Section 11.1 of Article XVI which reads:
“The ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens.”
Nowhere in this provision is the effective life of a mass media enterprise pegged to a terminal of 50 years. Senior corporations must be recognized and awarded for the longevity of their public service instead of being discriminated against in the renewal or grant of legislative franchise.
The Constitution did not envision or intend that the badge of inutility must attach to corporations which have reached the golden age.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN