By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the Duterte administration isn’t solely to blame over the delays in the franchise renewal of embattled media conglomerate ABS-CBN.
Cayetano made the remarks amid the criticisms of some groups about the alleged lack of urgency of the 18th Congress to tackle the 11 bills on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise
In an ambush interview in Parañaque City, Cayetano said cited bills seeking to renew the franchise of the Kapamilya network was first filed in 2014 when former President Benigno Aquino III was still in power and then refiled in 2017 under current President Rodrigo Duterte.
Cayetano stressed that in the 16th Congress which is under then Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr., there was at least only one hearing.
“Unang finile ‘tong franchise na ‘to, September 2014, isang beses lang nag-hearing ang 16th Congress,” said Cayetano.
Cayetano insisted the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN “is not a race against time, but a race towards justice and democracy.”
“This is not a race against time, but a race towards justice and democracy,” said Cayetano.
“Hindi ito race. Hindi ito pabilisan. Kailangan po natin ng lamig ng ulo,” he added.
Under the Alvarez and Arroyo speakerships during the previous 17th Congress, not a a single franchise bill of the ABS-CBN was tackled by the House committee on legislative franchises which remains under the leadership of Palawan Rep. Franz “Chicoy” Alvarez until now.
Cayetano asserted that the issue of franchise renewal is not about curtailing press freedom but more of an issue of accountability.
“Yes, hindi mo pwedeng tanggalin na merong issue ng press freedom. Pero pag hindi ba binigay ang prangkisa, patay na ba press freedom?” he said.
Republic Act No. 3846 or the law regulating Radio stations and Radio Communications in the Philippine requires that commercial broadcasting corporations have to secure a legislative franchise for them to operate.
“Kung press freedom ay automatic, eh ‘di dapat wala na tayong dadaan sa Congress. Automatic na lang. Hindi, isasabatas natin. Sa Amerika, ang mga istasyon, pwede mag-endorso ng kandidato. Iba po ang prangkisa nila. Iba po ang duties at batas nila. Tayo, may Fair Election Act tayo,” said Cayetano.
Cayetano said he wants to listen to “reasonable minds” during the hearing but he is open to invite panel of experts to serve as resource persons aside from the Congressmen to make the proceedings more objective.
“The timing and the way we’re doing the hearings are very important,” he added.