By Fernan Angeles
FOR lawyer Dino de Leon, the congressional move denying broadcast network ABS-CBN of an extension of its franchise, could be superseded by a people’s initiative, which he drafted as petition for the signature of the Filipinos wanting to see the Lopez-owned television firm back on the air. De Leon said the sovereign people can actually directly pass a law granting a franchise pursuant to Republic Act No. 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act.
His draft petition was in response to the House of Representatives’ franchise committee’s move to deny the broadcast network’s franchise application. ABS-CBN’s previous franchise expired on May 4.
In a Facebook post, De Leon said that he and fellow lawyers have drafted a proposed initiative on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN and analyzed the requirements to make such an initiative possible. “It is high time that we put Congress in its proper place and to counter their disservice to the People,” De Leon said.
“We need not wait for 2022. We can strengthen our democratic institutions now without relying on another messiah who will promise to salvage us ‘in 3-6 months,'” he added.
Interestingly, De Leon is also the lawyer who petitioned the Supreme Court to compel the Office of the President to divulge President Rodrigo Duterte’s health records. His petition was however junked by the high court Republic Act 6735 says that to exercise the power of initiative or referendum, at least 10% of the total number of registered voters, and at least 3% of voters in every legislative district, should sign a petition and register it with the Commission of Elections (Comelec).
The Comelec is mandated by law to supervise the conduct of an initiative or referendum that would see at least 61 million registered voters deciding ABS-CBN’s fate. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said Malacañang will defer to the Supreme Court should it decide on whether a people’s initiative can be used to grant ABS-CBN a franchise.