Cayetano deflects ABS-CBN shutdown blame to NTC, Calida

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Cayetano deflects ABS-CBN shutdown blame to NTC, Calida
File photo shows House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Days after ABS-CBN shutdown after its franchise expired and bills for its renewal were stuck at the Congress, House Speaker Alan Cayetano on Friday deflected the blame on the network going off air to the National Telecommunications Commission and Solicitor General Jose Calida.

Cayetano kept mum for three days since the broadcast giant stopped operations following the NTC’s cease and desist order issued Tuesday, which he said was an “ambush.”

Finally on Friday, the House speaker broke his silence and vowed that there will be “reckoning” for the “flip-flopping of the NTC and the unconstitutional meddling by the solicitor general in the business of Congress.”

Cayetano stressed that the “exclusive Constitutional authority to grant, deny, extend, revoke or modify broadcast franchises” remains to the Congress.

And the Congress will do its job, he added.

“The Committee on Legislative Franchises will conduct hearings” that are “fair, impartial, thorough and comprehensive,” Cayetano said but failed to indicate a day for when a hearing may be held.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque denied that Solicitor General Jose Calida, a member of the president’s cabinet who warned NTC of graft charges if it issues provisional authority to ABS-CBN, influenced the decision of the telecommunication regulation body.

READ: Calida: NTC did its job; lawmakers failed to do theirs

He also asserted that President Rodrigo Duterte, who lashed out on ABS-CBN several times for years until he accepted the network’s apology late February, is neutral on the network’s issue.

Cayetano: The country faced bigger threats

Cayetano, in his latest statement, said that the Congress was on track on priority legislation, but the eruption of Taal Volcano in January “necessitated adjustments in the Congressional calendar.”

“It is in this context that the leadership of the House tried to gain a consensus with the Executive Department, through the DOJ and the NTC, to allow us time to properly address the ABS-CBN issue in the midst of all the other more important problems facing the country,” he said.

In a hearing at the Batangas City Convention Center on January 22, the House passed a resolution expressing only its support and commitment for the passage of supplemental budget for government response for Taal’s eruption, but no funding legislation was passed.

The House also hosted exhibit for the late NBA player Kobe Bryant, including Cayetano’s own shoe collection, on January 29 and another on February 24—the same day that the Senate held a hearing on allegations against ABS-CBN. Cayetano said the senators who led the hearing are “sipsip” or suck-ups.

Cayetano was quoted in a CNN Philippines report on February 14 as saying that the Congress is “busy” dealing with more important bills to tackle as he asserted that the broadcast giant will not go off air.

Early March, Cayetano insisted that bills for the network’s franchise will be discussed by the House panel either in May or August, saying that they needed “cooler heads” to deal with an “emotional issue.”

The House speaker, however, cited the assurances of NTC that it would heed the guidance of the Department of Justice on the issuance of a provisional authority for the network.

"Despite a resolution from the Senate, and several verbal and written assurances given to Congress - the NTC appears to have succumbed to pressure from the Solicitor General, and issued a cease and desist order to ABS-CBN." Cayetano said.

The network ran to the Supreme Court on Thursday to stop the implementation of NTC’s cease and desist order.




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