Life or death for ABS-CBN

Martin Romualdez
NETWORK'S FATE. House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep Martin Romualdez delivers his manifestation during the Joint Committee Meeting of Legislative Franchises and Good Government and Public Accountability at the plenary of the House of Representatives.Romualdez stresses his appeal to respect whatever judgment is rendered by the House of Representatives on the issue of ABS-CBN Franchise.Photo by Ver Noveno

THE House Committee on Legislative Franchises and Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability ended the hearings on the bills seeking new  franchise for ABS-CBN Corp. with summation of arguments.

Both the pro- and anti-ABS-CBN franchise were given time to explain their arguments on the issue concerning the application of franchise.

As of press time, the committees have not yet scheduled the voting.

The ABS-CBN Corp. franchise has expired on May 5.

Two solons -- Abang Lingkod {arty-list Rep. Stephen Paduano and Kabayan Party-list Rep. Ron Salo -- have withdrew their authorship to franchise bills House Bill 3713 and House Bill 6901, respectively.

Chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez and Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, the two committees have conducted a total of 12 hearings  (combination of physical and virtual meetings) and more than 100 hours.

On the voting procedure, while the hearings were jointly conducted by the two House panels, the rules agreed upon is that only the 46 members of the Legislative Franchise Committee, as well as the 44 House officials who are considered ex officio members, will be allowed to vote.

In his summation, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. stressed the tax violation committed by the ABS-CBN management.

On the other hand, Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor pointed out the political bias and monopoly practice of the giant television network.

Meanwhile, those supporting the franchise -- Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Baguio City Rep. Mark Go -- appealed to colleagues  to give  ABS-CBN Corp. another chance to operate for the sake of press freedom and the 11,000 employees of the company.

BRIBE  CLAIMS

Meanwhile, House Committee on Appropriations  chairman ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap said  alleged emissary of ABS-CBN Corp. is trying to bribe him in exchange for a yes vote for the franchise application of the television network.

Yap said he was being offered P200 million.

“More than two weeks ago, may tumawag sa atin, nagpakilalang emisaryo ng ABS CBN at hinihimok tayong bumoto pabor sa ABS CBN kapalit ng 200 Million pesos,” Yap said.

Yap made the disclosure as he expressed disappointment over the spreading of fake news on the  how the members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises will vote on the ABS-CBN franchise application.

Yap stressed it is a “fake” report since there is no schedule yet on the voting and that members and ex-officio members agreed to vote based on their conscience and understanding on the issue.

“Press freedom is alive but it is also the responsibilty of our journalists to deliver the truth. May nabasa akong pinagtutulungan daw i-pressure ang ating mga kasamahan para bumoto laban sa ABSCBN pero puro paratang lang ang laman at walang credible source. Meron pang listahan na nilabas na boto daw ng mga kongresista kahit na malinaw na malinaw na wala pang nangyayaring botohan. Why use unverified information? Do not mislead the public,” Yap said.

On the bribery issue, Yap said he did not accept the money.

“Simple lang ang sagot ko, hindi for sale ang prinsipyo at boto ko. Nilabas ko ba sa media? Hindi. Dahil hindi tayo sigurado kung emisaryo nga ng ABS CBN yun at unfair naman na malalagay sa alanganin ang pangalan ng ABS CBN dahil sa kanya at unfair din maging sa proceedings ng Joint Committee na tumatalakay sa issue ng prangkisa nila,” he said.

“Buhay na buhay ang press freedom sa bansa hanggang sa puntong inaabuso na ito para sa pansariling interest ng iilan. Marami tayong kaibigan sa media na balanse at mataas ang antas at integridad ng pagsusulat at pagbabalita. Pero sadyang may iilan na mas matimbang ang pagiging bias at walang pakialam kung tama ang laman ng balita. Do not mislead the public. They deserve to know the truth,” the solon added.

Yap is among the solons  who filed a resolution to investigate  the  violations of the ABS-CBN before the granting of the franchise.

NO TO INTIMIDATION -- CAYETANO

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House  will not be intimidated by any group or any body in deciding the fate of ABS-CBN Corp. on its franchise application.

According to Cayetano, he has received several reports that a religious group and influential people are threatening or intimidating the members of the House committee on legislative franchises.

Cayetano reiterated that each vote must and will be based on the appreciation of the facts as they have been presented by both sides during the exhaustive proceedings, as well as the application of the relevant laws and public policy. 

He dismissed rumors of threats and intimidation coming from certain groups, even linking it with specific religious organizations and congressional leaders 

“It is completely false and is an unproductive exercise in trying to manipulate the vote to favor a particular decision, ” Cayetano said. 

He also underscored that these “clumsy attempts at mind conditioning” that clearly pose a “threat to the fairness and impartiality” of the committee. 

“By trying to poison the well of public opinion, those spreading this propaganda are trying to blackmail Congress into acceding to their demands,” he added.

The Speaker said as the committee members begin to deliberate on their final vote the fate of the network in the next few days after summation of the arguments for and against the renewal, he is advising all sides to continue to advocate, but never to engage in black propaganda and fake news.

Cayetano noted that since the start of the proceedings, the House leadership has advocated for a fair, transparent and impartial hearings. Moreover, he has also urged colleagues to cast a “conscience vote” in line with the ABS-CBN franchise bill.