Senator urges House peers: Don’t shut ‘an institution’
A day before members of a committee in the House of Representatives were expected to vote on the ABS-CBN franchise, a senator called on his House colleagues to just amend the previous franchise if they had problems with how the media giant was being run rather than shutting down “an institution.’’
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri made the call on Thursday as the committees on legislative franchise and good government wrapped up their hearings on the network’s franchise application.
He expressed sadness at the thought that ABS-CBN would not get a new franchise and leave its 11,000 employees jobless, and by the fact that billions of pesos in taxes would no longer be collected from the network once it shuts down and many residents in the far-flung areas of Mindanao would lose a source of news and entertainment.
“I, too, have had my share of disappointments and disagreements with ABS-CBN like the nonairing of my political ads, but I would never have wished for them to shut down. I may have had times that I was angry with their reporting, but I would never allow my personal feelings to get in the way of what is for the greater good of the public,” Zubiri said.
The joint House committees ended the hearings on Thursday and formed a three-member technical working group (TWG) to draft its recommendations on the franchise application of ABS-CBN so these could be presented to the members before the voting.
Expected to vote on the franchise application are the legislative franchise committee’s 46 members, as well as 32 of its ex officio members that include Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chair of the franchise committee, told the Inquirer that the TWG would be presenting its recommendation—whether to put the matter to a vote—on Friday.
“The vote may or may not happen, depending on the recommendation,” he said.
‘Look for other jobs’
Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said House members should vote according to their conscience and should not be swayed by politics or other factors.
He also advised workers of the network to find jobs elsewhere should it close down.
“I can’t tell them to revolt and run amok. That cannot be. They could look for other jobs so that their families could live,” he added.
Reacting to Dela Rosa’s statement, Raul Asis, president of the ABS-CBN Supervisory Employees Union, told the Inquirer that the senator’s words were hurtful and uncalled for amid the COVID-19 pandemic now hurting the economy.
“It’s easy to tell us to find another job. I’m 47 years old. Where will I find work in the Philippines at my age and during a pandemic,’’ said Asis, who supports five children.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Bato (Dela Rosa), but maybe you can try and reverse our positions. There are millions of Filipinos who lost their jobs. You cannot even find work for them,’’ he added.
Asis urged lawmakers to be more sensitive to the plight of the network employees.
“They will get zero votes from me in the next election. Yes, you can quote me on that,’’ he said.
Yap’s bribery story
As the joint committees concluded the hearings which started on May 26, ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap clarified his statement on Wednesday that an “emissary’’ had called to offer him P200 million in exchange for a favorable vote on the franchise renewal two weeks ago.
Yap had said he rejected the bribe from the emissary, whom he did not identify.
On Thursday, the party list lawmaker said he doubted outright the claims of the caller and ended their conversation. He denied accusing the network of offering the bribe.
He said he revealed the alleged bribe to “cite as example’’ the need for responsible journalism in the country.
In a statement, ABS-CBN said it did not send an emissary to bribe any lawmaker to vote in favor of its franchise renewal.
“We believe in the process and we have participated in the process. We answered all issues raised in the past 12 hearings,’’ the network said. —WITH REPORTS FROM MELVIN GASCON AND MIGUEL R. CAMUS
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