By Ben Rosario
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano broke his silence Tuesday on the on-going controversy involving the legislative franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corporation, saying the network must now “do some soul-searching to reflect on how we have all reached this point.”
Nevertheless, Cayetano said he remains committed to the conduct of a fair hearing on the legislative measures proposing to give ABS-CBN a new lease on life as its current legislative franchise nears expiration on March 30.
But Cayetano said the hearing schedules will depend on how the House leadership and the committee on legislative franchises will prioritize urgent and important legislation.
“We also commit that the 18th Congress shall study this issue from all aspects in order to protect the interest of the public,” the House official said.
Cayetano spoke about the issue one day after the Office of the Solicitor General filed a petition for quo warranto calling for the cancellation of ABS CBN’s current legislative franchise for its alleged violation of its provisions.
“Under the leadership and guidance of President Duterte, many of our nation’s institutions – including Congress – has had to take a long hard look at itself,” Cayetano said, “to reflect on what our role is in nation-building, and what reforms are needed, and how best we can serve God and the Filipino people.
“Maybe the media, especially ABS-CBN, should also take this critical time (to do the same).”
Previously, Cayetano admitted that he had also been an aggrieved party of the network’s reporting.
Notwithstanding his complaint against the Kapamilya network, the House leader vowed to treat the broadcast giant in an objective manner as it seeks a renewal of its legislative franchise.
Like Cayetano, Duterte has claimed being on the short end of the stick when the network did not air his campaign advertisement during the 2016 presidential race. The network has been brushing aside accusations it favored one of the leading presidential candidates at the time.
Cayetano stressed Congress’ commitment to conduct an impartial hearing “where those who are against or in favor of the renewal may make their case.”
He gave the assurance that Congress will not be swayed by the OSG’s filing of a case against the ABS-CBN, saying it “will fulfill its constitutional mandate to review and decide on the franchise issue.”
“This constitutional duty of Congress does not preclude other branches of government to do as it sees fit with regard to this matter. But neither should it divest Congress of its powers nor will their actions stop us from doing what we must do,” Cayetano said.
He pointed out that this is consistent with the President’s stand on the protection of freedom of expression.