MANILA - House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said on Monday he is seeking a conscience vote among his colleagues in Congress on ABS-CBN's franchise as he said he was no longer personally testifying in the ongoing hearings.
"I cannot speak for the parties kasi nag-uusap-usap din sila. But from the start, we have been urging a conscience vote," Cayetano said in a media interview at the sidelines of the turnover of donations of members of the House of Representatives to Quezon City residents.
"From the start, we've been saying that kung ikaw (ay) pro, open mo yung mind mo sa mga umaangal; kung ikaw naman isa sa mga umaangal, open your mind sa sasabihin ng management. That's why we made the hearings public so that people can decide for themselves," he said.
(From the start, we've been saying that if you are pro, open your mind to those complaining; if you are one of those complaining, open your mind to what the management is saying.)
According to him, lawmakers will have to deal with their own appreciation of which is right or wrong, and where their constituents stand on the issue.
"When do you exercise leadership na ito tama, mali; whether it's popular or unpopular; and when naman the people's voice is supreme,” Cayetano said.
(When do you exercise leadership that this is correct, wrong; whether it's popular or unpopular; and when the people's voice is supreme.)
"Yung conscience, napaka-importante sa boto."
(Conscience is very important in casting a vote.)
Since he would no longer attend the hearings, Cayetano said he will just submit in writing his grievances to the committee and ask ABS-CBN to respond.
“I thought about testifying today. And siguro, if I was not a member of Congress and I was not Speaker ay personal ko pong ilalatag sa committee today yung pananaw ko na nagkaroon ng bias noong 2016 elections, in particular during the placement ng ads, nung sa coverage, etcetera.”
(I thought about testifying today. And maybe, if I was not a member of Congress and I was not Speaker, I would have personally submitted to the committee today my view that there was bias in the 2016 elections, in particular during the placement of ads, in their coverage, etcetera.)
Cayetano said he does not want to influence the decision of his colleagues by personally testifying against ABS-CBN.
"I would rather not be adversarial at this moment. Maaring last hearing ngayon, pero napakaraming nagpalista," he said.
(Today may be the last hearing day, but many intend to ask questions.)
He expected the hearing to be extensive, and pressed the media to understand what media bias is.
“It's gonna be a good discussion. Sa mga kapatid nating media, bantayan niyo nang mabuti yung hearing ngayon kasi nga, ano ba ibig sabihin ng media bias," he said.
(To our brothers in the media, I ask you to observe today's hearing because it will be about what media bias means.)
"Lahat ng pulitiko, pag-criniticize niyo, sasabihin namin, biased kayo against us. Pero trabaho niyo to hold us accountable. So where is the line and when do you cross the line. So, it's a good discussion sa ating lahat.”
(All politicians that you criticize will say you are biased against us. But it's your job to hold us accountable... So, it's a good discussion for all of us.)
Cayetano, who was President Rodrigo Duterte’s runningmate in the 2016 elections, defines bias this way: “You cross the line kung may kinakampihan kayo sa eleksyon."
(You cross the line if you take sides during the election.)
"Now, if you're holding a person accountable, lalo na kung incumbent siya, at kalaban niya 'di incumbent, legitimate yun. Question kasi diyan - if the media will judge the politicians, who will judge the media? 'Di pwedeng yung politician."
(Now, if you're holding a person accountable, especially the incumbent, and his rival is not, that's legitimate. But the question there is - if the media will judge the politicians, who will judge the media? The politician cannot.)
Cayetano said talking about media ethics and bias is appropriate in the franchise hearing.
But he declined to say if the hearings were fair as he had promised, saying, "Whether it was fair, I leave it to the Filipino people. But definitely, (it's) open and transparent.”
"Yung fairness is not decided by sino mas maingay. Meaning, 'pag mas maingay yung pro, sasabihin ng mga anti, 'di fair. Pag mas pumupunto mga anti, sasabihin ng pro, 'di fair. But fairness is really the product of an open mind and allowing both sides to speak," he added.
(Fairness is not decided by those who have the louder voice. Meaning, if the pros are louder, the anti will say it's not fair. If the anti are establishing good points, the pro will say it's not fair.)
For Cayetano, what is important is people will understand the decision of Congress eventually.
“It's very important for me for people to know that at the end of the day, what the decision is, why Congress decided that way, and yung mga particulars ng bawat issue. So, hopefully, these 12 hearings somehow shed light on the many, many innuendos and issues na nababasa naman natin sa social media at napapakinggan naman natin, napapanood, nababasa sa traditional media.”
(It's very important for me for people to know that at the end of the day, what the decision is, why Congress decided that way, and the particulars of every issue. So, hopefully, these 12 hearings somehow shed light on the many, many innuendos and issues that we read on social media, and hear, watch and read in the traditional media.)
The House leader refused to discuss his analysis of the alleged violations of ABS-CBN.
“We will assess it point by point. So I don't want to preempt the committee dahil alam niyo naman, 'pag opinion ng Speaker, sasabihin sinunod ng iba o hindi sinunod. But I think, after 12 hearings, naging malinaw," he said.
(I don't want to preempt the committee because as you know, if it's the opinion of the Speaker, they might say it was followed by others or not. But I think, after 12 hearings, everything became clear.)
Meanwhile, Cayetano said critical reporting and press freedom are important.
“'Di iyon ang pinag-uusapan ngayong araw na ito. At kung pag-uusapan yun, kailangan linawin that press freedom and freedom of speech ay isang haligi ng democracy," he said.
(It's not the topic for today. And if ever it will be discussed, it should be made clear that press freedom and freedom of speech are pillars of democracy.)
"Sana, lahat ng nag-apply ng franchise, ganito kabusisi ang ginawa natin. But that's hindsight," he added.
(We should have scrutinized this way all companies that applied for a franchise. But that's hindsight.)
The House committees on legislative franchises, and good government and public accountability conducted Monday their 12th hearing on the bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise.
The proceedings began last month and have tackled such issues as the citizenship of ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III, the company's issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts, and alleged labor and tax violations, among others.
The network's previous franchise expired on May 4, prompting the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) the day after to issue a cease and desist order against its broadcast operations on TV and radio.
In March, the NTC had committed to lawmakers it will give ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate while Congress tackles the network's franchise application.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.