Panel listened to all sides at ABS-CBN hearing â Poe
In this photo from Feb. 24, 2020, Sens. Manny Pacquiao and Lito Lapid sit at a Senate hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise and on the network's alleged violations of it.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo

Panel listened to all sides at ABS-CBN hearing — Poe

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - February 26, 2020 - 5:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — In the face of claims of bias for ABS-CBN Corp., Sen. Grace Poe on Wednesday defended Monday's Senate hearing on the allegations against the network, saying it was conducted fairly and objectively. 

The senator's parents have links to the broadcast giant. Susan Roces is a talent of the company and appears in "FPJ's Ang Probinsyano." Her father, late actor Fernando Poe Jr., is the "FPJ" in the series' title and starred in a movie called "Ang Probinsyano".

Although her chairing the hearing despite her family's connections to the media company raised some eyebrows, Poe pointed out that the issue is within the jurisdiction of the Public Services committee. 

The committee, according to the Senate rules, handles "all matters affecting public services and utilities; communications; land, air, river and sea transportation including railroads, inter-island navigation, and lighthouses; and the grant or amendment of legislative franchises."

'All parties given chance to speak'

She also said that she remained objective despite these links by allowing all parties to say their piece on the matter. 

"Number 1: I am the chairman of the Committee on Public Services. Number 2: It’s no secret the business relationship of my family with ABS-CBN. Number 3: I am only one of 24 senators. Whatever I say, even if I am for it or against it, if the majority will not side with my opinion, it will not prevail," the senator said in an interview with ANC's "Headstart."

"The chairman of a hearing will allow everyone to speak. We were the ones, I in particular, made sure that the [Federation of International Cable TV Associations of the Philippines], the ones against the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise [were] invited," she said.

Senators Christopher "Bong" Go, Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, Francis Tolentino, and Manny Pacquiao—all allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been vocal about not wanting the network's franchise renewed, were at the hearing and were given time to make statements and ask questions.

'Black propaganda'

"I allowed them to speak and everyone else. In fact, members of the labor group of ABS-CBN... I didn’t call them, Sen. Angara, I think, asked [to have them speak]," Poe added. 

At Monday's hearing, it was Sen. Go who said that the president was hurt by the actions of the media network.

"How did it become a political ad? Are you promoting a candidate here? Or are you destroying a candidate?" Go, who even speaks for the president due to their closeness, asked officials of the media company present in the hearing.

"I just want to know what the priority of the network is. Which is more important for you? Black propaganda or political ads?"

The president's ire for the media company can be traced back to his comments on these advertisements during his electoral campaign in 2016, after which Duterte had been quoted as saying that the network swindled him. 

'Not unconstitutional' 

House Speaker Alan Peter 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. 

In her opening statement, Sen. Grace Poe was careful to point out that the hearing was tackling the Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon's resolution for the proposed extension of its franchise until 2022 in order to give both Houses of Congress additional time to review the application for renewal.

"Did I allow everyone to speak? I allowed Senator 'Bato' to speak as long as he wanted and I knew from the start he was apprehensive about giving ABS-CBN its franchise," Poe said.

"If you ask all of my colleagues, I keep repeating 'I'm going to have my hearings this time. I hope you can attend'. So, where's the bias there?" 

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