House reps asked to withdraw support for ABS-CBN resolution, solon says
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that Cayetano was unduly delaying the House deliberation on ABS-CBN's franchise.
The STAR/Boy Santos

House reps asked to withdraw support for ABS-CBN resolution, solon says

Franco Luna ( - February 18, 2020 - 12:53pm

MANILA, Philippines — Amid a quo warranto petition seeking to revoke the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN, members of the House of Representatives have allegedly been asked to withdraw their support for a resolution urging the House Committee on Legislative Franchises to act on bills for the renewal of the network's franchise.

This was confirmed in a statement on Tuesday by Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay), who said that the claim was corroborated by "verified reports." 

Lagman said that at least 91 congressmen had already signed on Monday House Resolution 639, which urges the panel to "report out without further delay for plenary action" a consolidated version of the pending bills proposing the renewal of ABS-CBN's legislative franchise.

"The freedom of the press is corollary to the people's right to information and the decimation of press freedom amounts to the demise of the people's right to know," the resolution read.

There are 11 such bills pending in the House of Representatives, some of which have been filed as early as last year. 

'Cayetano cannot toll the death knell on bills'

"Although Cayetano as Speaker is considered primus interpares or first among equals, the other Representatives are his co-equals who should not be disenfranchised from reasonably voting on the proposed renewal," Lagman said. 

"The Speaker cannot solely toll the death knell on bills or unduly delay the plenary deliberation on legislative measures. He has no monopoly over the fate of these measures."

Speaker Cayetano, a Duterte ally who was his runningmate in the 2016 polls, has admitted to having personal complaints with the network. 

Duterte has repeatedly said that he will see to it that ABS-CBN's franchise will not be extended, although the Palace has also said that the president, whose words often translate into policy, will not meddle in the affairs of Congress.

Cayetano's speakership is the result of a term-sharing agreement that Duterte had suggested at the opening of the 18th Congress.

'No green light to tackle bills'

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro) in an earlier interview with ANC's "Early Edition" quoted Rep. Franz Alvarez (1st district Palawan), franchise committe chair, who supposedly said that the pending bills could not move forward because, "in exact words, wala pang clearance sa itaas." 

"That's why he's restrained from these bills," Rodriguez added.

Yet, Cayetano promised to the media earlier that he would ensure the issue would be given a fair and impartial hearing.

Another delay came in December 2019 when Cayetano announced that Congress would no longer be tackling the pending bills within the year, saying the would still have enough time to do so in 2020.

This contradicted an earlier claim of his that the House would see to it that ABS-CBN's franchise would be tackled by the end of that year. 

"If Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has personal grievances against ABS-CBN or objections against the renewal of the network's franchise, he can vote against the renewal but must allow members of the House to cast their respective conscience votes on the renewal," Lagman wrote. 

Congress only has until March 11 to discuss the bill, while ABS-CBN Corp.'s legislative franchise is set to expire on March 30, at which point they would possibly be forced to close up shop. 

In his most recent statement, Cayetano said that the House "has been carefully studying [the issue] from day one" but was prioritizing "how to prioritize urgent and important legislation." 

"Contrary to the claim of the House leadership, the House is not besieged by priority measures because only four bills have been prioritized so far," Lagman said.

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