MANILA (UPDATE) — House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday raised allegations of bias committed by the Philippines' largest network, ABS-CBN Corp., as he questioned the urgency of holding congressional hearings on its broadcast franchise, which would expire in March.
The House of Representatives has yet to act on several bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise, which Solicitor General Jose Calida questioned via a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court last Monday, citing several alleged violations.
"Walang doubt na institusyon ang ABS-CBN. Walang doubt na napakalaki ng naitulong sa ating bansa. Pero wala ring doubt na may mga issues, kaya nga sinabing ABias-CBN," Cayetano told reporters.
(There is no doubt that ABS-CBN is already an institution. There is no doubt that it has helped the country a lot. But there is no doubt that it has issues, that's why it has been dubbed ABias-CBN.)
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly accused ABS-CBN of refusing to air his campaign ads during the 2016 elections.
ABS-CBN, which reaches millions of Filipinos through its television, radio and online platforms, had said it "did not violate the law," and that it was prepared to air its side on the various issues raised.
Hearings into the network's franchise renewal bills "will suck all the energy of the 18th Congress" because lawmakers will want to air their stance, said Cayetano.
"Kung gusto kong mag-grandstand, papatawag ako ng hearing agad...Pero is it the right timing? Tayo ba lahat nasa right frame ng mind ngayon o may ma init ng ulo pa?"
(If I want to grandstand, I will call for a hearing. But is it the right timing? Are we all in the right frame of mind or are we still hot-headed?)
"Hindi [ito] ganoon ka-urgent. Bakit? Kasi hanggang March 2022, pwedeng mag-operate," he added.
(This is not that urgent. Why? Because ABS-CBN can operate until March 2022.)
The 18th Congress ends in 2022. The network can operate until then as long as there is a pending bill for its license renewal, both Senate President Vicente Sotto and House legislative franchise committee vice chairperson Isabela Rep. Tonypet Albano have said.
"There's a consensus that while we're discussing the issue, walang reason na isara [ang ABS-CBN]," said Cayetano.
Asked when the House would hear the franchise bills, he said, "Definitely before March 2022, possibly in May if we have cooler heads...worst case, after SONA (State of the Nation Address in July)."
Congress is "open to any kind of mechanics to make our judgement more objective", said Cayetano.
"You wanna get a panel of experts to join the congressmen? Okay ako roon (I'm okay with that)," he said.
"Gagawin namin ang trabaho namin (we will do our job) and we will do it fairly," he added.
Sen. Grace Poe on Thursday called for a legislative hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise.
The network secured a 25-year franchise under Republic Act 7966, which was enacted on March 30, 1995.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.