De Lima urges House of Representatives to pass proposed ‘hold-over’ franchise bill


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged members of the House of Representatives to swiftly pass the pending legislative measure seeking to prevent the expiration of franchises with pending renewal applications.

De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, noted that the Senate has already approved its version of the bill amending the law to extend the existing franchise of a public utility pending its renewal by Congress.

“I call on our counterparts in the House to pass this measure, as it remains crucial to the operation of existing franchises that are awaiting renewal by Congress,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 1203.

“As stated in the objective of the proposed law, the measure only seeks to address a gap in the continuity of operation of public utilities pending the renewal of their franchises – again, a benefit that is, in the first place, already granted to, and being enjoyed by, holders of executive licensees,” she added.

House Bill No. 7923, authored by Parañaque City Rep. Joy Myra Tambunting, and Senate Bill No. 1530 which was filed by Senator Franklin Drilon, propose to amend Section 18, Book VII, Chapter 3 of the Administrative Code of the Philippines.

These proposed bills seek the non-expiration of a license until a final determination by the granting agency is made, given that an application for renewal has already been filed in a timely manner.

The Senate has since passed Drilon’s measure while the House bill remains pending.

“In principle, the proposal only expands a benefit that is already granted to licensees of permits granted by the executive branch, where the licensee has made timely and sufficient application for renewal, as provided for under Section 18, Book VII, Chapter 3 of the Revised Administrative Code. Presently, only the House of Representatives version of the bill remains pending for approval,” De Lima explained.

While the Department of Justice (DOJ) expressed support and claimed “nothing legally objectionable” in the measure, Solicitor General Jose Calida aired his strong opposition to the bill in a letter to National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba.

Contrary to the position of the Solicitor General, De Lima maintained that there is nothing unconstitutional in the proposed measure, noting that Congress still has the choice whether to deny or approve the renewal of the franchise.

“It only provides that pending the decision of Congress, the franchise continues to subsist so as to avoid losses both in income and in the service provided to the public during the period between its expiration and eventual renewal.”

“An authorization that, itself, would be emanating from Congress through this proposed bill. The purpose is just as clearly constitutionally valid, i.e., to avoid unnecessary losses that would be incurred both by the franchise holder and the public that it services during the renewal period, whether or not said franchise is eventually renewed anyway,” she said.

“For these reasons, there should exist no valid objection to the proposed bills on the matter, and the pendency of the House version of the bill should not be prolonged any further,” she concluded. (30)

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