No hearings on ABS-CBN just yet as Cayetano stresses more important bills take priority
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is in hot water for the closure of ABS-CBN franchise.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo, file

No hearings on ABS-CBN just yet as Cayetano stresses more important bills take priority

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - May 12, 2020 - 5:09pm

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives will not tackle ABS-CBN franchise bills just yet, as House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said it will “put the interest of the Filipino people first.”

In a statement Tuesday, Cayetano responded to the letter of 14 of his colleagues — authors of franchise renewal bills at the House — and urged him to convene the Committee on Legislative Franchises and act “with dispatch” on the proposed measures on the network’s franchise.

The House speaker said that the House of Representatives remains cognizant of its responsibility in the network’s franchise issues, but stressed: “Your House of the People will put the interest of the Filipino people FIRST, and in these extraordinary times prioritization, fairness and timing is of utmost importance.”

Cayetano also added that Congress is "re-aligining" its priorities by "passing urgent legislation that would maximize emerging socio-economic opportunities for our people; including but not limited to the Services, Health, Education, Agriculture, Tourism, Construction and Manufacturing sectors."

READ: Cayetano deflects ABS-CBN shutdown blame to NTC, Calida 

In their letter to Cayetano, the lawmakers noted that while there are other measures that need Congress’ action, the ABS-CBN franchise issue is as important, taking into account its “impact, economically and politically.”

The network’s closure on May 5 after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order happened as the Philippines and the rest of the world grapple with containing the spread of the deadly COVID-19. This has also put 11,000 jobs in limbo.

READ: ABS-CBN shutdown robs ordinary Filipinos source of information, entertainment — urban poor group

Hearing does not mean renewal

The House Speaker, after failing to indicate a day for hearing in his latest statement, also stressed that a hearing “does not mean automatic renewal” of franchise anyway.

“With the deception of the NTC and the meddling of the solicitor general adds exigency to the matter, there are still other concerns that need to be resolved,” Cayetano added.

The House panel on Monday issued a show-cause order against NTC officials and directed them to explain why they should not be cited in contempt for not holding up to their earlier statement that they would issue a provisional authority to the network.

No letter has been sent to Solicitor General Jose Calida.

“The serious concerns that have been raised can no longer be swept under the rug, and it is absolutely necessary for Congress to give this matter all the time and attention it requires,” Cayetano also said.

The House speaker added: “Did the Congress bow to the pressures of the executive department, or to the interests of a powerful and influential media corporation, or did we do our jobs and fulfil our mandate to the Filipino people?”

RELATED: ABS-CBN shutdown on Cayetano — Lagman, Atienza

President Rodrigo Duterte and Cayetano, his runningmate in 2016, have both aired displeasure at ABS-CBN for years.

The president accused the network of biased coverage against the administration and of “swindling” him when it did not air his campaign materials. He even said he will not renew their franchise, if he had his way, and the network may be better sold off.

In 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 Palace has insisted that Duterte is now “neutral” on ABS-CBN’s franchise issue and said the president would “not hold it against them”  if administration allies vote on the network’s franchise.

ABS-CBN meanwhile ran to the Supreme Court to ask for a halt order against the implementation of NTC’s order.

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