MANILA - Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman on Saturday said lawmakers are used to multi-tasking as he cited House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano's "foot-dragging" on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN Corp, which is set to expire in March.
The House of Representatives, he said, "could legislate on several measures within a short timeframe or almost simultaneously," as he countered Cayetano's statements Friday that the network's franchise renewal is "not that urgent."
"Moreover, the committee on legislative franchises is not overwhelmed with the pendency of major bills, which are more greatly important than the 11 proposals to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise," Lagman said in a statement.
Cayetano earlier questioned the urgency of holding congressional hearings on the network's franchise bid, saying ABS-CBN could still operate until the 18th Congress ends in 2022.
"Hindi [ito] ganoon ka-urgent. Bakit? Kasi hanggang March 2022, pwedeng mag-operate," he said.
(This is not that urgent. Why? Because ABS-CBN can operate until March 2022.)
In his statement, Lagman said the media giant is being given an "illusory remedy" of a provisional authority from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to continue broadcast operations past the expiration of its franchise.
"ABS-CBN is being given an illusory alternative remedy instead of being granted a justified renewal of its franchise," he said.
"The renewal of a franchise is the legal, proper and traditional course of action under the sole jurisdiction of the Congress," he added.
The NTC, Lagman said, could be influenced by President Rodrigo Duterte who is determined to block the network's franchise renewal.
"If the House of Representatives, which is an independent branch of government, kowtows to the repeated pronouncements of the President that he is against the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, with more reason that the NTC, an agency under the Executive Department headed by the President himself, would go against the wishes of President Duterte by issuing a provisional authority," he said.
Some 11 bills seeking an extension of ABS-CBN's franchise were filed before the lower chamber.
Meanwhile, Cayetano, in a statement issued on Saturday, reiterated the House would do an "impartial job" in taking up measures seeking to renew the network's franchise.
"So, what I request is we join the issues. All those opposed to renewing the franchise, submit your comments to the House committee on legislative franchises, which will forward these to ABS-CBN so they can already respond. That’s the way our democracy works," he said.
On the move of the Office of the Solicitor General to shut down ABS-CBN through a quo warranto petition, Cayetano said he'd "rather the SolGen did not file."
"But on the other hand, at least, people are now talking about the issues. As for me, I am open-minded. I have read the reply of ABS-CBN to the SolGen and I am waiting for their official comment,” he said.
The franchise woes that ABS-CBN is facing, Cayetano added, should not be equated with press freedom.
"This is not an open-close case of press freedom. It’s also accountability to our present laws, especially election laws. Personally, that’s what I want to hear when the hearings are held, what reforms ABS-CBN will undertake to address their perceived bias and alleged violations of their franchise," he said.
For several days, ABS-CBN had received an outpouring of support from different sectors, saying the government's move is an assault to press freedom and threatens the livelihood of thousands of employees.
ABS-CBN operates free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM.
news.abs-cbn.com is the general news website of ABS-CBN Corp.