Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile said Congress has no constitutional power to allow shuttered ABS-CBN to resume its operations, and the temporary franchise approved by the House of Representatives last week was “likely” invalid.

In a Facebook post titled “The ABS-CBN Puzzle,” Enrile said the seemingly rushed passage of the provisional franchise violated the “Constitution’s explicit mandatory directive that ‘No bill passed by either House shall become a law unless it has passed three readings on separate days, and printed copies thereof in its final form have been distributed to its Members three days before its passage, except when the President certifies to the necessity of its immediate enactment to meet a public calamity or emergency.'”

“How the House of Representatives can rush such temporary franchise bill is beyond my ken,” Enrile’s post read.

Broadcast regulators ordered ABS-CBN shut down on May 5 or a day after its franchise expired, under pressure from the Office of the Solicitor General, which filed a Supreme Court case against the Lopez-led network over alleged franchise violations.

President Rodrigo Duterte accuses ABS-CBN of bias and being a tool of the oligarchs, and publicly vowed to close the network in December last year.

Enrile also argued that a temporary franchise given to a broadcast entity whose original franchise had expired was questionable.

“Does Congress really have the legislative power or authority to grant such a temporary franchise to ABS-CBN – or to anyone else similarly situated – to enable it to carry on and continue the business of a mass media enterprise whose franchises have already reached their terminal end? I do not think so,” Enrile said.

On May 13, the House approved on second reading House Bill No. 6732 filed by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, which seeks to grant a provisional franchise for ABS-CBN to operate until Oct. 31, 2020, and allow Congress more time to discuss the network’s application for a 25-year franchise.

Another part of the puzzle, according to Enrile, is “how the Philippine government will treat the assets generated by ABS-CBN under the aegis of its temporary legislative, but unconstitutional, franchise.”

“Would the Philippine government allow ABS-CBN to keep and enjoy the fruits of its violation of the Constitution? Well, it is indeed a hell of a legal conundrum!” Enrile said.

The former senator also said the network shutdown was not about press freedom.

“In the wake of the ABS-CBN brouhaha, some partisans raised the right to press freedom to defend the beleaguered mass media enterprise. They argued that NTC’s cease and desist order violated ABS-CBN’s press freedom. With due respect to the ABS-CBN partisans, I could not see how that argument would fly,” the 96-year-old ex-lawmaker said.

Enrile ended his post saying “the press freedom of ABS-CBN as a business enterprise was not indefinite. It was circumscribed and limited by the provisions of its legislative franchises. Its franchises said — only up to May 4, 2020.” John Ezekiel J.Hirro