Even Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who initiated the measure that could have allowed the network to return on air under a temporary franchise until Oct. 31, was surprised by the sudden turnaround in the chamber’s plenary.
KJ Rosales, file
‘Politics doomed ABS-CBN provisional franchise’
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - May 22, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — What prompted House members to drop a proposal to grant provisional franchise to broadcast giant ABS-CBN while Congress deliberates on its franchise renewal application?

Even Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who initiated the measure that could have allowed the network to return on air under a temporary franchise until Oct. 31, was surprised by the sudden turnaround in the chamber’s plenary.

“I did not expect it to happen because in my view and when we speak of fairness, we should allow ABS-CBN to go on air and cover the hearings so we can judge whether or not its coverage is really fair on the issue once arguments are presented,” he admitted in a radio interview yesterday.

Cayetano said the House is a collegial body that decides through a consensus or majority vote, wherein members can change their positions anytime.

He said that after the chamber passed his House Bill 6723 on first and second reading on May 13, political parties met with their leaders and members in the following days.

“Some political parties and congressmen, other members of the government and even private citizens had plenty of discussions... You know individual votes of congressmen can change once they meet with their political blocs or regional blocs,” he said.

Cayetano said before the chamber dropped his bill on Tuesday, they had an all-member caucus wherein even authors of franchise renewal bills stood firm in their positions but had to follow the stand of their respective parties.

He did not name which political blocs decided to reject the provisional franchise bill. 

But during a virtual plenary session, representatives of major political parties led by the PDP-Laban and National Unity Party expressed support for Cayetano’s leadership, but moved to bring the issue back to the legislative franchises committee for hearings on the 25-year franchise bills.

“As I said, the well has been poisoned,” Cayetano said, citing the opinion of several lawmakers that the provisional franchise might be legally questionable.

Another House leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a “majority” of legislators “do not support the franchise renewal for ABS-CBN.”

“If we will have the voting at this time, a clear majority will reject the franchise bills. But we don’t know yet what can happen during and after the hearings, that’s why we have to listen to both sides,” the source told The STAR.

Cayetano admitted that the ABS-CBN franchise issue has become a “rollercoaster ride” since the National Telecommunications Commission shut down the network on May 5.

He gave assurance that the network would be accorded due process during the hearing.

Cayetano said the hearing will start on May 26 and the committee on franchises chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez would conduct hearings two to three times a week, even after Congress adjourns sine die on June 3.

“I do not foresee the hearings to go beyond July,” he said, adding the House decision may be ready for the state of the nation address of President Duterte.

Labor coalition Nagkaisa sought the immediate approval of the ABS-CBN franchise to prevent displacement of the network’s 11,000 employees. Mayen Jaymalin

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