Cayetano: We were fair to ABS-CBN

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Cayetano: We were fair to ABS-CBN
“The House leadership asks that the people read the findings carefully in order to appreciate the reasons for their decision. And for those who do not agree, at the very least, understand why the decision had to be so,” Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said.
Senate PRIB / Released / File

MANILA, Philippines – Amid the flak, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday called on the general public to be more circumspect in their opinion about the House of Representatives’ refusal to grant ABS-CBN another 25-year legislative franchise.

“The House leadership asks that the people read the findings carefully in order to appreciate the reasons for their decision. And for those who do not agree, at the very least, understand why the decision had to be so,” Cayetano said.

The Taguig congressman pointed out that the hearings conducted by the joint panel of the House committee on legislative franchises and good government – headed by Reps. Franz Alvarez and Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, respectively – were fair and objective.

“The House committed and delivered a time for Congress to conduct fair, impartial, thorough and comprehensive hearings on the application for franchise renewal of the ABS-CBN Corporation,” Cayetano said.

“Because of the highly partisan nature of this issue, we accepted from the start that there would be those who will vehemently disagree with the committee’s decision, no matter what they resolve,” he added.

The administration stalwart maintained that the process was “by no means easy for anyone involved in the proceedings, but assured the public that the final resolution was not arrived at without serious consideration of the overall impact it will have on the nation.”

He said the technical working group (TWG) took the opportunity to present policy recommendations with a view to crafting more responsive and effective legislation to address the many unresolved issues discussed in the course of ABS-CBN’s franchise application.

On the other hand, the TWG assured the public that the decision was in no way related to the freedom of the press, but rather a denial of a privilege granted by the state because ABS-CBN was seen as undeserving of the grant of a legislative franchise.

For Ang Probinsyano party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong, ABS-CBN should have been given a new franchise to operate, especially since the “public’s access to timely and relevant information is a basic right that empowers the people to make sound decisions.”

“Mass media are active partners or agents in ensuring the enjoyment by all of this right. Such access to information is also crucial now that we are in a pandemic,” the neophyte administration lawmaker said.

“In other words, in deciding on matters of broadcast franchises, the government is to be guided by the people’s right and welfare as the primordial interest in the renewal or approval of any media organization’s franchise,” Ong added.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman lambasted presidential spokesman Harry Roque for claiming that the House ruling was the “decision of the Filipino people” since they “ratified the Constitution that bars a broadcast company from operating without a congressional franchise.”

“Roque errantly defended the congressional rejection,” Lagman said. “This justification is erroneous because nowhere in the 1987 Constitution are mass media outlets required to secure a legislative franchise from the Congress.”

It was Congress which empowered itself to grant radio stations, which was later interpreted to include television stations, a franchise under the Radio Control Act of 1931 or Act 3846 “which has survived unrepealed up to today,” according to Lagman.

He further declared that “no less than the controversial cease and desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) invoked the Radio Control Act in stopping the operation of ABS-CBN Corporation.”

“This provision on mass media does not impose the requirement of securing a prior legislative franchise from the Congress. The constitutional provision requiring legislative franchise refers to public utilities under Section 11 of Article 12,” Lagman said.

End has come – SolGen

For an elated Solicitor General Jose Calida who pushed to deprive ABS-CBN its chance of getting a new congressional franchise, “the end has come.”

Calida expressed belief that “justice has been served” after the House tackled and eventually denied ABS-CBN’s application for a new franchise.

“The committee on legislative franchises affirmed the allegations found in the OSG’s quo warranto petition,” he said in his statement, referring to the Office of the Solicitor General’s petition before the Supreme Court (SC) last Feb. 10 to cancel ABS-CBN’s already expired legislative franchise.

The House committee’s resolution that junked the chance for a new franchise for ABS-CBN “confirmed” that the network violated the terms of its expired franchise by launching pay-per-view service through its Kapamilya Box Office (KBO) channel.

Calida had previously argued in his petition that the KBO, where users of ABS-CBN’s digital broadcast device TV Plus can watch select movies for a fee, ran without approval from the NTC.

The committee also proved that the network allowed foreign control by issuing Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) to foreigners, which Calida also indicated in his petition.

The NTC ordered the closure of ABS-CBN through a cease and desist order after the network’s 25-year congressional franchise lapsed last May 4.

The agency acted on it after Calida threatened its officials that they might face charges for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Calida also praised the House of Representatives, saying it “has done its job well.”

It “not only exercised its constitutional mandate, but also fulfilled (Cayetano)’s promise to the Filipino people that ‘the hearings (would) be fair, impartial, comprehensive and thorough,’ and that ‘(a)ll voices (would) be heard and all issues for and against (would) be discussed,’” he said in his statement.

The solicitor general also applauded Cayetano, Alvarez, Sy-Alvarado, Deputy Speakers Boying Remulla and Rodante Marcoleta; and Reps. Mike Defensor, Elpidio Barzaga “and all those who voted in favor of the committee resolution for their leadership and integrity.”

By junking ABS-CBN’s application for a new franchise, “Congress has done its duty under the Constitution, and by its action, the rule of law has been upheld,” according to Calida.

He also urged the public to respect the House’s decision on denying ABS-CBN a new franchise as “Congress has ascertained that ABS-CBN is unworthy of a legislative franchise.”

“The granting of a legislative franchise is a privilege, not a right,” he said. “The denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise cannot be characterized as a restraint on freedom of expression or of the press because the primordial effect of such denial is the upholding of the constitutional provision and laws governing media companies like ABS-CBN.” Ghio Ong



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