By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
A former member of the House committee on legislative franchises has warned that President Rodrigo Duterte has the final say on whether ABS-CBN will be allowed to operate after the lapse of its franchise on March 30.
Infrawatch convenor and former Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon made the remarks following the assurances from senior congressmen and senators that the Lopez-owned media conglomerate can continue its broadcast beyond the term of its franchise.
Ridon stressed that “while the strong views of congressmen and senators on ABS-CBN’s franchise holdover are very comforting to the network, its employees and advocates of press freedom, we should be reminded that the President can still order the uniformed personnel and other agencies to literally and figuratively shutdown the network after March 30.”
“With no favorable presidential pronouncement in sight, the public should brace for this unfortunate prospect. Wide public support remains key to stop an escalation from happening,” said Riddon.
Ridon stressed that instenad issuing assurances, congressmen “should also convince the President to take a similar position.”
He explained that without convincing the President, “the legislators’ assurances of a franchise holdover carry no weight.”
“Will we see them at the gates of ABS-CBN when the President’s proverbial tanks come crashing the network? Probably not,” he added.
Ridon said the swelling of public support for the network should instead be the one to convince the highest levels of government to reconsider the impending shutdown.
Ridon said that ultimate accountability at this point “rests on Congress and no one else, not even the President.”
“The onus is on no one else except Congress. Citing the lack of time or justifying the delay due to other important concerns is an absolute cop-out,” said Ridon.
“As in all legislative measures, pag gusto maraming paraan. Pag talagang ayaw, maraming dahilan. If they feel that the franchise should be rejected, let the sword fall where it should,” he added.