Cayetano says he has ‘personal objections’ to ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano admitted on Monday that he had personal objections to the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN, even as he promised that the House of Representatives would be “fair” to the broadcast giant.
The leader of the 300-strong chamber implied that ABS-CBN’s 25-year license was not considered priority legislation at the moment, even though it would expire in a matter of four months, on March 30, 2020.
“People like me, I also have some objections [about the extension]. I’ll tell you, this is my personal [opinion], okay?” Cayetano said in an interview on ANC, the cable news channel of ABS-CBN.
‘Freedom of the press’
“On one hand I feel that we have to protect the freedom of the press and freedom of expression; on the other hand I feel that there’s certain instances in history, and in the 2016 election, that some sectors or leaders of ABS interfered unjustly,” he said.
“So how do you sort it out? Like right now, we can debate that, and of course, you will stand up for the network but I’d rather have it in a hearing, straight talk, face to face, and talk about it,” the Taguig lawmaker told TV host Karen Davila.
But Cayetano assured the public “we will find a conclusion that is acceptable to everyone but will be good for the country.”
“First and foremost, telling it straight, we will be fair. It’s our duty to be fair,” he said. “When we will take it up, [as] I’ve already stated in public and to the chairman, we will finish our priority bills so we can focus on that,” he added.
Cayetano said one way to show fairness was to have the House legislative franchises committee hold a hearing to discuss some issues involving ABS-CBN, “so that the public knows who’s right or who’s wrong.”
6 bills seek renewal
“And I’m not referring to the President because didn’t the President say he will file an objection? So that’s between ABS-CBN and the President, because I’m sure the President has legitimate criticisms,” Cayetano said.
At least six bills have been filed at the House seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, including Deputy Speakers Vilma Santos-Recto of Batangas and Rose Marie Arenas of Pangasinan.
But to date, the franchises panel chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez has not tabled the measure for discussion.
In the previous Congress, similar bills were sidelined at the House as the President launched verbal attacks against the media network.
In the Philippines, radio and television broadcasters, unlike newspapers, are required to seek a franchise from Congress, pursuant to Republic Act No. 3846.
Such a setup has been criticized by media watchdogs like the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility as a weapon to control the press.
Since he assumed the presidency, Mr. Duterte had repeatedly threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, castigating the network for running a negative ad against him during the 2016 presidential campaign, and refusing to air his own paid ad.
The President can veto any bill passed by Congress, but both chambers can override it by a two-thirds vote.
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