ABS-CBN House hearing: Atienza hits colleagues for ‘fishing expedition’
MANILA, Philippines — Branding it as a “fishing expedition,” Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza on Monday said the series of House hearings on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise had been among the lengthiest in the chamber when it comes to granting legislative franchises.
Speaking with reporters in an online media forum, Atienza accused some of his colleagues of refusing to listen to “duly authorized” government agencies, which have already cleared the network from any constitutional violations.
“I’m saying we keep on going on a fishing expedition. They have not proven anything at this point. You are now—to me—wasting precious time of the people, Congress in particular if we keep on going around in circles and we do not conclude this particular set of hearings,” Atienza said.
“On history palagay ko…ito ang pinakamahabang hearing,” he further added.
(On history I think…this is the longest hearing.)
He noted that franchise renewal inquiries usually take only three to four hearings before it reaches the plenary.
“Yung iba nga isang hearing pero ito walo na, wala pa kong nakikitang end in sight. Baka abutin pa to ng Agosto, kawawa naman yung mga empleyado, lalong magugutom yung mga kababayan natin,” he said.
(Even other franchise renewals only take up one hearing but in ABS-CBN’s case, we are going on the eighth hearing and I am yet to see an end in sight. This may last until August and the network’s employees will suffer; they will go hungry.)
Earlier, ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak said the media giant might have to start retrenching employees by August if it fails to get either a new franchise or a provisional permit.
“It’s time to call a spade a spade. Let’s vote on the matter and let’s hear the voices, the collective voices of the majority of members of Congress, and whatever decision is made, we should respect it,” Atienza said.
“Unfair, to say the least. Unfair to ABS-CBN, unfair to the employees of ABS-CBN, for the 11,000 employees and their families. Unfair to the Filipinos who are dependent on ABS-CBN for the accurate news delivery, information, entertainment,” he added.
Atienza further criticized some of his colleagues’ line of questioning, saying it shifts the burden of proof to ABS-CBN.
“Meron pong mga akusasyon na talagang maselan, violations of the Constitution na kailangang tignan…On the contrary, ABS-CBN has been absolved by competent, authorized and legally created offices like the Department of Justice, (Bureau of) Immigration, even the Securities and Exchange Commission,” the lawmaker said.
(There are accusations that are really sensitive, violations of the Constitution which really need to be looked into.)
“Yung mga testigo ay para bang considered guilty, prove yourselves innocent…pero para bagang ang nangyayari, walang resolution yung question and answer, walang termination. Basta tuloy-tuloy ang akusasyon,” he added.
(The resource persons have been treated as if they are considered guilty, prove yourselves innocent…It seems like what’s happening is that there is no resolution to the question and answer, there is no termination. The allegations are just being thrown at them.)
Atienza said franchise renewal hearings should not be “investigative” and prosecutorial.”
He said that when it comes to franchise renewals, Congress should give importance to the significant contributions of a franchisee to the country.
“Did they perform as a network for which they were given the franchise? Ganun sana ang simula ng ating pagharap sa hearing,” he said.
(Did they perform as a network for which they were given the franchise? That’s how we should go about the hearing.)
“Ang takbo nitong hearing na nagaganap sa Kongreso ay parang imbestigasyon more than anything else. Prosecution rather than hearing,” he added.
(The direction of this hearing that’s happening in the House has turned into an investigation more than anything else. Prosecution rather than hearing.)
He also expressed hope that those opposing the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise would “wake up one day” and “be guided by the thought given to them by the Holy Spirit.”
“Isipin naman ninyo yung kalagayan ng libu-libong pamilya at possibly milyun-milyung Pilipinog naapektuhan nitong pagsasara nito,” he said.
(Think about the welfare of the thousands of families and possibly the millions of Filipinos who will be affected if the network closes down).
“Kung ito’y masamang network, kung ito ay nakakasira sa ‘tin, walang problema, we should not allow it to continue. But admittedly it has served the interest of the nation,” he added.
(If this has been a terrible network, if this would not do us any good, then no problem, we should not let it continue. But admittedly it has served the interest of the nation).
To push the hearings along, Atienza said Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano can nudge the majority of the lawmakers in the lower chamber to put ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal to a vote.
“Now that we have taken up seven hearings, tomorrow we’ll take up the eight hearing…pwede nang magbotohan ‘to and na kay Speaker Cayetano ‘yan. He cannot pass the ball to anyone, you are holding the ball Speaker shoot it now, whether it comes in or not. At least, ginawa mo yung tungkulin mo,” he said.
(Now that we have taken up seven hearings, tomorrow we’ll take up the eight hearing…this can be put to a vote already and it would be up to Speaker Cayetano. He cannot pass the ball to anyone, you are holding the ball Speaker shoot it now, whether it comes in or not. At least, you did your job.)
“He’s the speaker, he carries the weight. He’s the leader of the majority. Therefore, he controls the majority. The majority decides to take it up now in the plenary, that’s it. Next session, pwede na sa plenary to,” he added.
(This can be taken up in plenary).
The House committees on legislative franchise and on good government and public accountability will continue its hearing on ABS-CBN’s fresh bid for a 25-year franchise on Tuesday.
A day after its franchise lapsed on May 4, ABS-CBN went off the air in compliance with the cease-and-desist order issued by the NTC directing the network to shut down its TV and radio broadcasting operations nationwide.
The order was made despite NTC’s earlier assurance that it would grant provisional authority to ABS-CBN as Congress deliberates on the network’s pending franchise renewal.
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