MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday refused to comment on whether the ABS-CBN’s franchise can be regained through “people’s initiative”.

“Inasmuch as this matter is still largely speculative, both as to whether it will actually be carried out and as to whether it is an appropriate course of action to take in this case, the Comelec will refrain from issuing any statement on the matter,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in a statement.

Jimenez, however, enumerated the poll body’s primary duties with regards to the petition for people’s initiative.

“However, in response to requests for clarification, the Comelec’s main tasks in any people's initiative petition are: 1) to verify the gathered signatures; 2) to determine the sufficiency of the number of signatures gathered; 3) if the number of signatures is sufficient, to schedule and conduct a plebiscite,” he said.

The ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise expired on May 4, 2020 but the House legislative franchises committee voted 70-11 to reject the network’s application for another 25-year license to operate.

Some lawyers and law professors pushed for the use of the proposed people's initiative where voters can directly legislate a franchise for the network after the House Committee on Legislative Franchises junked ABS-CBN’s franchise bid on July 10.

Human rights lawyer Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno said he believes that a proposed people's initiative is feasible for the network.

The idea was first raised by lawyer Enrique Dela Cruz in a now-viral Facebook post.

On the other hand, lawyer Trixie Angeles said the people's initiative may not be applicable to legislative franchises since Republic Act 6735, or the ‘Initiative and Referendum Act” is private or will only be applied to an individual or corporation.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Malacañang would defer to the Supreme Court to decide if the network’s franchise can be regained through "people’s initiative." (PNA)