In this file photo from July 2019, Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig) attends an all-party caucus with other incoming House leaders in Taguig City ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address.
The STAR, File
'What is it for?': House speaker shrugs off 'sipsip' Senate hearing
Franco Luna ( - February 24, 2020 - 9:05pm

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday criticized the Senate Committee on Public Services that on Monday tackled issues brought up against ABS-CBN Corp., saying its attendees were being obsequious towards the broadcast company.  

Cayetano earlier warned that holding such a probe ahead of the House of Representatives would be illegal and unconstitutional but the panel forged on with the hearing anyway. 

Senators said committee chairpersons are allowed to call hearings and pointed out that the inquiry would tackle the media network's alleged franchise violations and not necessarily their legislative franchise. 

READ: Senators maintain nothing wrong, unconstitutional with ABS-CBN franchise hearing

"Parang naga-attendance ngayon lahat ng gustong sumipsip sa ABS-CBN," Cayetano, a former senator, told reporters at a media briefing on Monday as the hearing took place.

(It's like everyone who wants to suck up to ABS-CBN is in attendance) 

"Bakit nag-hearing ang Senate? Anong purpose? Parang naga-attendance e, ‘Hello, I’m here, I’m for you’, ‘di ba? Kasi sabi nila, it’s not for the franchise kasi hindi pa sila pwede mag-hearing sa franchise, nandito pa, so what is it for?"

(Why is the Senate having a hearing? What is the purpose?)

'No green light from Cayetano'

Cayetano has been quoted as saying that the franchise bills for the broadcast giant are "not that urgent", saying also that it would be better to hold hearings on ABS-CBN's franchise later because it is still "an emotional issue."

"Pero dapat by the time na mag-hearing tayo sa Kongreso, malamig ulo nating lahat," he said last week.

(By the time we hold hearings at the House, our heads should be cooler already)

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

In the same hearing, representatives of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Securities and Exchange Commision said ABS-CBN Corp. has been complying with tax and corporate regulations.

The Office of the Solicitor General has a pending quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court against the company claiming, among other allegations, that it had breached a constitutional rule on foreign ownership. 

Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, former presidential aide and Duterte's de facto spokesperson, said that the issue was with anti-Duterte advertisements that the network broadcast during Duterte's campaign for the presidency in 2016. 

READ: ABS-CBN abides by tax, labor and corporate laws — gov't

"All the president wants is fair reporting. Kung masama ka sa pangulo, mas magiging masama siya sa'yo (If you are bad towards the president, he will treat you worse)," Go said at the Senate hearing. Malacañang has repeatedly said that the case against ABS-CBN Corp. is not part of a political vendetta. 

In an earlier interview with ANC's "Headstart", Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asserted that the issue was also one of press freedom. 

"Inevitably freedom of the press will be involved, because in our mind, the cancellation of the franchise is not based on Constitutional issues but on something else," Drilon said, although he did not specify what exactly this was. 

"Certainly, editorial content is not a ground for cancelling the franchise, because that smacks of violation of the freedom of the press and it can be even viewed as a prior restraint which is violative of the freedom of speech." 

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