Congressional Franchise Reform Part 1

The primary objective of all grants of franchise is to benefit the public; the rights or interests of the franchisee, are secondary.

A regulatory capture that is built in the process of Congress is that of the legislative franchise process.  It would have been better if the process is amended so that there is more transparency in the procedure and hence congressional accountability on the allocation and management of spectrum or airwaves is guaranteed.

The airwaves (or spectrum) are patrimony resource and nothing has been done since the Ramos’ deregulation or the breaking of the so-called monopoly, to manage the spectrum allocation and use by the franchisees.  In fact, the spectrum, though owned by all Filipinos has not been beneficial whether in terms of service, fees and taxes collected from them by the NTC.  A franchise is a “special privilege to do certain things that is conferred by government on an individual or a corporation.”  In consideration, the person or corporation who receives a franchise shall pay “money, bear some burden, or perform a public duty.  The primary objective of all grants of franchise is to benefit the public; the rights or interests of the franchisee, are secondary.”

The power to grant franchises is vested in Congress.  The problem attendant to the exercise of this power is that Congress has no knowledge or technical expertise on spectrum management.  In fact, since 1987, when Congress opened its doors again, no spectrum policy has been enunciated and more and more spectrum lords have been sitting on franchises given by Congress only to later flip it for a fee or consolidate it to the highest bidder.  There is not a single policy on spectrum management coming from Congress.

There have been standing committees on legislative franchises since 1986.  The current Standing Committee on Legislative Franchises in the House of Representatives is headed by Rep. Franz Alvarez (Palawan, 1st Dist) whose jurisdiction covers” all matters directly and principally relating to the grant, amendment, extension or revocation of franchises.”  The counterpart in the Senate is the Committee on Public Services which has jurisdiction on “all matters affecting public services and utilities; communications; land, air, river and sea transportation including railroads, inter-island navigation, and lighthouses; and the grant or amendment of legislative franchises.” Sen. Grace Poe heads the committee in the Senate.  Take note that the Senate’s jurisdiction is limited to the grant or amendment of the franchise, a different scope compared to that of the House of Representatives.

To be continued…

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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