Defensor to some solons on ABS-CBN shutdown: Why speak up only now?
MANILA, Philippines — “I think it is only fair that we ask our colleagues who were here then and who are the most vocal now: What did you do then? If you truly believe that this is an issue of press freedom, then why didn’t you speak up the way that you are doing now?”
Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor posed these questions on Wednesday to his colleagues in the lower chamber who started blaming the House of Representatives after media giant ABS-CBN shut down its broadcast operations.
According to Defensor, bills seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN were filed even in the previous administration and the previous Congress.
“This bill has been in Congress since 2014 during the time of Speaker [Sonny] Belmonte and President [Noynoy] Aquino,” Defensor said.
“Unfortunately, those who cry foul the hardest are those who were already members of Congress when ABS-CBN first applied for their renewal,” he said.
Defensor pointed out that he, along with several other lawmakers, was not part of the House in the previous administration.
“It’s unfair for us 160 members who are new in Congress and who had nothing to do with the more than six years that the application of ABS-CBN had been pending,” he said in Filipino.
Defensor did not give names but said some of his colleagues had been blaming the House for the network’s closure.
For instance, in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Wednesday morning, Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza Jr. apologized for the “failure of Congress to do its job” in the franchise renewal.
Atienza said that the House, particularly Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, were at fault.
“I would like to apologize for the failure of Congress to do its job. This is our fault. This is the fault of Congress. But more importantly, I would like to say squarely, this is the fault of Speaker Cayetano,” Atienza said, speaking partly in Filipino.
Even Solicitor General Jose Calida, who warned the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against granting ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate, said that Congress should be blamed for the shutdown.
In response, Defensor said: “There are members of Congress who find it convenient to agree with the opinion of the solicitor general and the presidential legal counsel that puts the blame on the House of Representatives for the expiration of the franchise of ABS-CBN.”
“Frankly, I am baffled by this sentiment,” he added.
In the first place, he said: “Congress should be tackling more important issues, instead of a private bill that has been languishing in these chambers for the past two administrations.”
“This is especially true today as we face a worldwide pandemic that has infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands around the world,” Defensor said.
“Yet here we are, wasting valuable time — all because a few rogue administration officials have taken it upon themselves to subvert the process for their own political ends,” he added.
On March 10, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told members of the House that the commission would follow the advice of the Department of Justice (DOJ), allowing ABS-CBN to operate while its franchise renewal bid is pending in Congress.
However, on May 5, one day after ABS-CBN’s franchise expired, the NTC issued a cease-and-desist order, directing the network to stop operating its television and radio broadcasting stations nationwide “absent a valid Congressional Franchise required by law.”
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.