Cayetano: Duterte ‘never told me to grant or not grant’ ABS-CBN franchise
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday insisted that President Rodrigo Duterte “never told me to grant or not grant” the franchise to ABS-CBN Corp.
Cayetano made the remark after several lawmakers in the House of Representatives’ Makabayan bloc claimed that Duterte had a hand in the recent developments regarding ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal bid.
“Hindi ko kokontrahin o sasang-ayunan ‘yung sinabi ni Congressman [Carlos] Zarate o kung sino man ang nagsasabi but I can tell you and look you in the eyes na ang ano sa akin ni Presidente is just be fair,” Cayetano said in an ambush interview.
(I will not contradict or agree to what Congressman Zarate or whoever who’s saying but I can tell you and look you in the eyes that what the President advised me is just be fair.)
“Bahala kayo d’yan. The President has never told me to grant or not grant the [franchise], and kung titingnan mo ang attitude ng Presidente, sa confirmation, sa mga secretary, kung anong teritoryo ng Kongreso, sa Kongreso yan,” he added.
(All up to you. The President has never told me to grant or not grant the [franchise], and if you will look at the attitude of the President, on confirmation of secretaries, if the territory belongs to Congress, it’s for Congress.)
House leaders earlier dropped House Bill No. 6732 – which would have granted ABS-CBN a provisional franchise to operate until October 31, 2020, and instead opted to proceed with the deliberations on the bills seeking to grant the network another 25-year franchise that in effect further delays he network’s possible return on air.
Hearings on ABS-CBN’s application to renew its legislative franchise to operate are set to commence on Tuesday, May 26. The hearings will be handled by the House committee on legislative franchises chaired by Palawan 1st Dist. Rep. Franz Alvarez.
“Hindi tama na sabihin ang leadership ng House ay pro- o anti-ABS-CBN (It is not right to say that the leadership of the House if pro- or anti-ABS-CBN). We have our individual stand,” Cayetano said.
“Kausap ko si (I talked to) [Chairman Alvarez], I assured him he has complete autonomy with the vice-chairman and sabi niya (he said) when he starts sa (on) Tuesday, itutuloy-tuloy na ito (this will go on) and I will be making the session hall available to make sure the witnesses na dapat nandoon ay may (who must be there will have) social distancing atsaka (and) there is enough space for everyone,” he added.
Duterte’s ‘dark hand’ visible
But ACT-Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro still claimed that Malacañang is behind the events that befell ABS-CBN – from the broadcast firm’s move to renew its franchise up to its shutdown a day after its license to operate lapsed on May 4, as ordered by the National Telecommunications.
“Dinidribble-dribble ito, ginagawan ng pamamaraan kunyari para mai-ere pero on the final analysis, ang Malacañang pa rin ang nagtagumpay,” Castro said in an online press briefing also on Thursday.
(This is being dribbled, making it appear that it will be back on air but on the final analysis, Malacañang still emerged victoriously.)
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite echoed this, saying that Duterte has previously said that he would block ABS-CBN’s bid to renew its 25-year franchise.
“Nakita na nga natin ‘yung maitim na kamay ni Duterte dito sa muling pagharang sa paggawad ng prangkisa sa ABS-CBN. ‘Wag na tayong magpabola pa,” Gaite said.
(We’ve seen Duterte’s dark hand in this latest move to block the grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN. Let’s not be fooled anymore.)
Gaite said the government is now only looking for reasons to deny the franchise renewal bid of the media giant network.
Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, meanwhile, noted that it was Duterte’s allies that wanted to proceed with the discussions on ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise instead of first granting the network a provisional franchise.
“We have reasons to believe that the executive branch did some string-pulling to derail the temporary return of the network on-air,” Brosas said.
“Come to think of it, the bill on ABS-CBN interim franchise breezed through the committee on the whole and second reading with the consensus of the house only to be stopped in its track by notable allies of the president who called instead for discussions of the 25-year franchise,” she added.
Previously, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte is “neutral” on the issue and urged members of Congress to vote as their “conscience dictates”.
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