Cayetano urges ABS-CBN to do some ‘soul-searching’
MANILA, Philippines — As the franchise renewal of media giant ABS-CBN remains hanging in the House of Representatives, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano broke his silence and gave an advice to the network: “Do some soul-searching.”
Cayetano made the remark only over a month before ABS-CBN’s franchise expires and amid calls of several members of the lower chamber for the House committee on legislative franchises to tackle the issue.
“Under the leadership and guidance of President Duterte, many of our nation’s institutions – including Congress – has had to take a long hard look at itself,” Cayetano said in a statement.
“To reflect on what our role is in nation-building and what reforms are needed and how best we can serve God and the Filipino people. Maybe the media, especially ABS-CBN, should also take this critical time (to do the same),” he added.
Currently, there are at least 11 bills filed in the House seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, which is one of the biggest media outlets in the country. Its franchise is set to expire on March 30.
But despite the number of bills filed in support of the renewal of the media giant’s franchise, the House committee on legislative franchises has yet to schedule a hearing to tackle the issue.
On the issue of the scheduling of hearing for ABS-CBN’s franchise, Cayetano said that while “there are certain interests who want to rush this process, we stand by the leadership of the 18th Congress and the Committee in Legislative Franchises on how to prioritize urgent and important legislation.”
“We also commit that the 18th Congress shall study this issue from all aspects in order to protect the interest of the public,” Cayetano said.
The House Speaker, however, assured that hearings on the matter will be impartial and those who are for and against the renewal of the media giant’s franchise will be given the opportunity to make their case.
Republic Act No. 3846 requires television and radio broadcasting companies to secure a franchise from the government before they are allowed to operate. It is Congress that will decide whether to extend the franchise to public utilities, such as the media.
Duterte and ABS-CBN
President Rodrigo Duterte, on numerous occasions, has said that he would block the franchise renewal of the ABS-CBN due to supposed “violations” committed by the media giant.
These previous pronouncements from the President, many believe, was the reason why the lower chamber has yet to discuss the matter.
But Isabela Rep. Antonio “Tonypet” Albano, who serves as the vice chairperson of the House committee on legislative franchises, assured the public that the committee would tackle ABS-CBN’s franchise.
He said the committee even held closed-door meetings wherein among the topics discussed were the media giant’s franchise.
“We assure the public later on that we will hear the case because our chairman and the leadership of the House, in particular, has been closely monitoring the events but we also have a lot of other issues to tackle before we can tackle the ABS-CBN franchise,” Albano told reporters.
Albano said the closed-door meetings were held so that the committee would not be “pressured by any sides.”
“Remember that it is enshrined in the Constitution that Congress is the sole prerogative entity that is tackling all the franchises here in the Philippines so this is one of the reasons why we wanted closed-door sessions is that we didn’t want any pressure from anyone in particular so that our decisions will not be biased in the end when we start hearing the cases,” the lawmaker said.
Quo warranto petition
As the expiration of ABS-CBN’s franchise nears, the media giant has to face another challenge—the Office of the Solicitor General’s filing of a quo warranto petition.
On Monday, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a petition before the Supreme Court against ABS-CBN in order to stop the supposed “abusive practices” of the network.
In a statement, Calida said that ABS-CBN has been hiding behind an “elaborately crafted corporate veil” and allowing foreign investors to take part in the ownership of the network which is a violation of Section 11, Article XVI of the Constitution.
Section 11, Article XVI of the Constitution states that: “The ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens.”
A number of congressmen have spoken up against OSG’s move, saying such move smacks of usurpation of the power of Congress.
Cayetano said that the House will fulfill its constitutional mandate to review and decide on the franchise issue, despite this move by the OSG.
“This constitutional duty of Congress does not preclude other branches of government to do as it sees fit with regard to this matter. But neither should it divest Congress of its powers nor will their actions stop us from doing what we must do, ” Cayetano said.
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