Calls for People's initiative as SWS says 75% of Filipinos wanted ABS-CBN franchise renewed

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There may be another way for ABS-CBN to appeal its franchise bid, but it will require the majority vote of the public, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno and another lawyer said. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 11) — There may be another way for ABS-CBN to appeal its franchise bid, but it will require the majority vote of the public, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno and another lawyer said.

Diokno raised on Saturday that another option for the media giant is a "People's initiative" which means the public can craft and pass the law.

However, the petition will need the signatures of 10 percent of the voting population or 6.1 million people, based on the 2019 midterm elections count of registered voters. It will also require each district to be represented by at least three percent of voters.

After the Commission on Elections verifies the signatures, it will call for a referendum where people can vote to approve or reject the measure. It will be passed if it gains majority of the votes.

This idea was first raised by Atty. Enrique Dela Cruz in a now viral Facebook post, after the House of Representatives voted to deny ABS-CBN's franchise renewal

But, another lawyer disagreed. Atty. Trixie Angeles said the people's initiative may not be applicable to legislative franchises since the law for it is private or will only be applied to an individual or corporation. This is not included in the initiative's legal definition, she added. 

Diokno contested this.

"As far as I know, the law on people's initiative does not make that distinction," he later told CNN Philippines in a text message. "If Congress can pass that kind of law, why can't the people do it [through] people's initiative?"

Logistics

The Commission on Elections, however, has its own concerns over the logistical requirements of a possible initiative.

Commissioner Luie Guia said it would be "very challenging" considering that employees are either working from home due to the pandemic or already preparing for the 2022 national elections.

He also said verifying signatures will be a hard task.

"The verification process can sometimes be contentious as the judgment of the verifiers may not be readily accepted," Guia said in a message.

"It would have been an exciting occasion to make good use of initiative as an instrument of direct democracy," he admitted.

This comes as the Social Weather Stations released results of a national mobile survey, that showed 3 out of 4 Filipinos or 75 percent said Congress should renew ABS-CBN's franchise, while another 56 percent said the non-renewal of the franchise was a "major blow to press freedom."

The survey was conducted on July 3 to 6 with 1,555 adult Filipinos — 306 in Metro Manila, 451 in Balance Luzon, 388 in the Visayas and 410 in Mindanao. It has sampling error margins of ±2% for national percentages, ±6% for Metro Manila, and ±5 for Balance Luzon, ±5% Visayas, and ±5% in Mindanao.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Rex Remitio and Senior Digital Producer Eimor Santos contributed to this report.