By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Tuesday said he favors a public debate tackling the role of the media during elections in response to the ongoing controversy regarding the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.
Angara made his stance known as the Senate is poised to tackle the ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal in a hearing to be called by Sen. Grace Poe’s committee next week, despite a Supreme Court petition for a gag order.
Angara said he truly believes House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, President Duterte’s running mate during the May 2016 national elections, raised valid concerns when he aired his gripes about the network’s potential to play favorites during poll season.
Currently, there are 11 bills filed at the House of Representatives seeking the renewal of the ABS-CBN’s franchise, which is set to expire in March 30, 2020, for another 25 years.
“Nagkataon na feeling nila hindi sila nakampihan nung (It happened that they felt they were not favored during the) election. So that’s also a valid issue, I think,” Angara told reporters in an interview.
“That has to be addressed di ba? What is the role of media during elections, are they allowed to play favorites? Pag usapan natin yan (let’s discuss it) because that’s an important issue for our democracy. Because it affects democracy,” Angara stressed.
“These are very powerful actors who are given a franchise. Which is, as the, Supreme Court said, is not a right but a privilege. So how you behave while you are enjoying a privilege is a valid subject for public debate,” he pointed out.
But Angara said that given a chance, he too, would vote for the renewal of the network’s franchise, given that his wife Tootsy, works at ABS-CBN.
“I think Sen. Nancy Binay said it best—she felt she was not being treated fairly but she said it’s not about her. So I’m trying to look beyond my wife…When you take out 11,000 thousand jobs from the economy. That’s a problem.
“Aside from that, there’s an advertising industry that’s dependent on the programming. There’s the creative industry,” he said.
“Not only well-known artists are employed in that company. Even those doing films, and trailers. Those people behind the scenes, that’s why we need to discuss this during the hearing,” Angara said.
Nevertheless, Angara said he still sticks to the principle that lawmakers should go beyond their personal issues and put the nation first.
“Here in Congress, the nation should be our priority, not our personal issues. No one should take the issues personally,” he said.