MANILA — Lawmakers "have no business being members of Congress" if they will decide whether or not to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp based on President Rodrigo Duterte's remarks against the Philippines's biggest media network, his spokesperson said Friday.
The House of Representatives has yet to hear several bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise, which expires on March and was questioned this month by the government's top lawyer due to alleged abuses.
"If you are influenced by the actions of this man (Duterte) or the utterances of this man, then you have no business being members of Congress," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told ANC.
"You are there precisely because of the oath you have taken to enact laws, to investigate in aid of legislation — nothing more, nothing less," he added.
Duterte's threat to close the network, he said, should not be taken literally.
"Hindi naman literal iyon e. He wants to shut down the fraudulent practices of your network," Panelo said, referring to ABS-CBN's alleged refusal to air Duterte's 2016 election campaign ads.
"Walang kinalaman iyon sa pag-grant o pag-renew [ng franchise] because that is the job of Congress," he added.
(That has nothing to do with granting or rejecting the franchise because that is the job of Congress.)
Panelo told lawmakers anew, "Kung anong trabaho ninyo, under the Constitution, gawin ninyo."
(Whatever your job is under the constitution, do it.)
"Why does the Speaker have to take a cue from Malacañang? Why do members of Congress have to wait for what the President will say about anything?" he added.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had said holding congressional hearings on ABS-CBN's franchise was "not that urgent" because the network can operate until 2022 due to its pending license application.
Meanwhile, the Senate public services committee will tackle on Monday the media giant's franchise renewal. Several senators backed the inquiry, saying the non-renewal puts at stake the jobs of some 11,000 ABS-CBN employees.
Last week, Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the Supreme Court to invalidate ABS-CBN's franchise due to alleged violations, including a ban on foreign ownership of media entities.
Calida acted "on his own" in challenging the network's franchise through a quo warranto petition, said Panelo.
"Under the constitution, may kaniya-kaniya kaming trabaho (we have our own jobs)... The President does not interfere with that. We are given a free hand," he said.
"Ever since, Calida is on his own. Ganoon din naman ang character n'yan," he added.
Malacañang "will follow whatever Congress or the Supreme Court says," said Panelo.
"Kami'y nanood lang (we're just watching)," he said.
ABS-CBN had said it never violated laws in its 65-year service.
Calida urged the high court to issue a gag order on parties representing the network. The court gave ABS-CBN 5 days to comment on the Solicitor General's plea.
news.abs-cbn.com is the news website of ABS-CBN Corp.