By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
President Duterte may attend the proposed Senate inquiry into broadcast network ABS-CBN’s compliance with its legislative franchise to air his grievances against the broadcast company.
This was according to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who said the Senate’s discussion would be a “good venue” to determine if ABS-CBN indeed violated the terms of its franchise.
Sen. Grace Poe, head of the Senate public services committee, earlier filed a resolution calling for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the operations of ABS-CBN after Solicitor-General Jose Calida sought the revocation of its franchise for allegedly breaching the conditions of its congressional permits, aside from supposed constitutional violations.
ABS-CBN’s franchise expires on March 30.
“Magandang mapag-usapan natin kung ang allegations against ABS[-CBN] ay mayroon basehan (It’s good that we discuss if the allegations against ABS-CBN have basis), and this is through oversight function of the Senate.
“Tutal, assuming, pagdating dito ng franchise ng ABS, ganon din, pag-uusapan din namin ang performance ng ABS, kung anong pagkukulang ng ABS, at — kung merong tumututol — ano ‘yong kanilang mga allegations (Anyway, assuming that its franchise reaches the Senate, we will also talk about the performance of ABS-CBN, their lapses, and — if there are oppositors — the allegations against them),” Gatchalian, one of the vice chairpersons of the public services panel, told reporters in an interview.
“Ibig sabihin, iimbitahan doon ang mga tumututol at nag- allege, iimbitahan din ang ABS para magbigay linaw sa allegations. So it will be a neutral ground to discover and to analyze whether the allegations are true or not,” he said. (This means, those against and those who have allegations will be invited, and ABS-CBN will be invited as well to answer the allegations.)
With these remarks, he was asked if President Duterte would be invited to the Senate hearing. Duterte has repeatedly vowed to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise for not airing his 2016 campaign ad, despite paying the broadcast company.
“Puwede siyang imbitahan kung gusto niyang pumunta, but this is a venue para mapag-usapan (He can be invited if he wants to go, but this is a venue to discuss this issue),” Gatchalian said.
“Anyone, as a general rule, can participate” in the Senate committee hearing, he said. “Anyone who could shed light [on] these allegations.”
Duterte may also opt to send a representative to speak on his behalf, he noted.
Gatchalian, like Poe, said the Senate inquiry would not violate the sub judice rule of the Supreme Court as he maintained that it is part of the Senate’s mandate and oversight function.
He said the committee hearings would also not guarantee the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise, as he maintained that franchise bills emanate from the House of Representatives.
The Senate panel, on the other hand, may recommend amendments and reforms in granting legislative franchises to media companies to prevent any violations in the future.
Senators are divided on whether or not to allow the Poe committee to discuss ABS-CBN’s franchise. Senate President Vicente Sotto III said they will meet on Monday to tackle this.