Palace: Duterte too busy, not interested in Senate hearing on ABS-CBN franchise
In this Sept. 9, 2019 photo, Sen. Grace Poe leads the Senate Committee on Public Service hearing on the provincial bus ban.
Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal
Palace: Duterte too busy, not interested in Senate hearing on ABS-CBN franchise
Alexis Romero ( - February 23, 2020 - 1:54am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has too much on his plate to pay attention to the hearing to be conducted by a Senate panel on ABS-CBN's franchise, Malacañang said Sunday, as it distanced itself from lawmakers' discussions on the issue.

The Senate public services committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Monday on the network's alleged violations of its franchise as well as the pending application of the renewal of its franchise.

 The hearing has been set despite opposition by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who claimed that the move would violate the Constitution.

Cayetano, a staunch ally of Duterte, has argued that under the Constitution, all bills of local application like franchise measures should emanate from the House.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III has disputed this, saying the hearing would focus on resolutions on whether ABS-CBN's franchise should be approved. Some senators have also pointed out that it has been standard parliamentary practice for the Senate to conduct parallel hearings on bills that should emanate from the House like the annual General Appropriations bill.

'Duterte not interested'

Asked whether Duterte would monitor the Senate committee hearing, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Chief Executive has a lot of work to do.

"Hindi interesado si Presidente. Maraming trabaho si Presidente (The President is not interested. The President has a lot of work to do). Too much work," Panelo said in a radio interview.

Panelo reiterated that Malacañang would not meddle in the activities of Congress. He also declined to comment on the Senate's decision to cancel its regular session to give way to the hearing on the television network's franchise.

RELATED: Duterte: Cayetano, Velasco to share House speakership 

"That's their (Senate) decision. You know that the Palace does not interfere with the moves of Congress, the Senate, the House of Representatives. We have nothing to do with that. It’s their turf. We’ll not intrude into that," the Palace spokesman said.

"Haven't we stated our position on that? That's the job of the Solicitor General. Let him do his job. Whatever the Supreme Court says, we will just comply," he added.

Franchise renewal bills still pending

ABS-CBN's franchise is set to expire on March 30. The broadcast giant is facing an uncertain fate as the House of Representatives, which is dominated by allies of President Duterte, has yet to hold a hearing on bills renewing its franchise.

Last December, Duterte, who has accused ABS-CBN of swindling and biased reporting, said he would see to it that the network would be "out." Panelo had claimed that the remark was just an expression of his "personal displeasure" with the network.

Earlier this month, the Office of the Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the legislative franchises of ABS-CBN Corp. and its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. citing what it described as "highly abusive practices" of the network.

ABS-CBN, the OSG claimed, went beyond the scope of its franchise by broadcasting for a fee. The top government lawyer has also accused the Lopez-led network of violating the constitution by allowing foreign investors to take part in the ownership of a Philippine media entity.

ABS-CBN has denied the allegations and maintained that all its broadcast offerings have received the necessary government and regulatory approvals. ABS-CBN Holdings’ Philippine Deposit Receipts were evaluated and approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Philippine Stock Exchange before its public offering, company officials said.

Various journalists groups, educational institutions and human rights advocates have slammed the petition filed by OSG, calling it a threat to press freedom and an attempt to silence media entities perceived as threats to the government. 

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