MANILA - Members of the House of Representatives have been asked to withdraw support for a resolution that seeks to expedite plenary deliberations of measures that will grant ABS-CBN fresh broadcast franchise, a lawmaker claimed on Tuesday.
"Verified reports show that House leaders have been asking signatories to withdraw their support to Resolution No. 639," Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said in a statement.
The resolution urges the Committee on Legislative Franchises "to report out without further delay a consolidated bill on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise."
"The signatories to the resolution do not challenge the House leadership but they want the House leadership and membership to exercise the sole congressional prerogative to grant and extend legislative franchises and to protect and uphold the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression," Lagman said.
As of Monday, he said over 90 lawmakers in the lower chamber had signed the resolution.
ALBANO: NO PRESSURE
In a statement, House Committee on Legislative Franchises vice-chairman Antonio Albano belied Lagman's allegation, insisting that if there were withdrawals, they did it on their own.
“There is absolutely no pressure from the House leadership for congresspeople to withdraw their signatures from the resolution that they have signed. The Speaker and I believe that it is each congresspeople's right to sign a resolution that they truly believe would be good for the country and the bill being tackled. However, I also believe that the congresspeople are very independent-minded and it is their right to withdraw their signatures due to their own cognizance or self-enlightenment," he said.
Alvarez also said some congressmen who signed a resolution seeking to fast-track the ABS-CBN franchise bills have apologized to Committee Chair Franz 'Chicoy' Alvarez.
“And so the other members who signed all apologized to Chairman Alvarez and us members for 'intruding' into the affairs of the committee. They certainly don't like to have others intrude in their own committees in the future," he said.
Albano surmised that “the reason for them to withdraw their signatures on their own without pressure from the leadership was because they might have realized the negativity in them signing the said petition or resolution."
Another explanation, according to Albano, is that it would create a "bad precedent."
"That being chairpersons and members of their own committees apart from the franchise committee, they would be hurt if we also suddenly do it to them and shortcut the process just because we have gathered enough signatures and take away the committee's right to calendar the case in their own time frame, hear the case, and promulgate a decision," he said.
Meantime, Lagman also called on House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who earlier said the measures were "not that urgent," to allow their colleagues in the lower chamber to vote freely.
"If Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has personal grievances against ABS-CBN or objections against the renewal of the network's franchise, he can vote against the renewal but must allow members of the House to cast their respective conscience votes on the renewal," Lagman said.
Eleven bills seeking an extension of ABS-CBN's broadcast franchise, which is set to expire on March 30, 2020, remain pending in Congress.
"He [Cayetano] has no monopoly over the fate of these measures," Lagman added.
The lawmaker also refuted claims by the House leadership it was overburdened by several priority measures.
Only 4 measures have been prioritized so far, Lagman said.
These are the fifth tranche of the Salary Standardization Law, postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, creation of a Department for Overseas Filipino Workers, and affording free legal services to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
"These 4 measures were prioritized by the Senate and House leaderships following the 2019 SONA of the President during the opening of the 18th Congress. No other bills have been officially prioritized pending the convening of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), the meeting of which has long been overdue," he added.
ABS-CBN operates free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM.
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