MANILA — House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday denied reports that certain groups are "threatening and intimidating" lawmakers before they vote on whether to approve or reject ABS-CBN's bid for a fresh 25-year franchise.
"Rumors of threats and intimidation coming from certain groups, even linking it with specific religious organizations, and congressional leaders are completely false and is an unproductive exercise in trying to manipulate the vote to favor a particular decision," Cayetano said in a statement.
Cayetano issued the denial after news website Politiko in an article claimed some lawmakers, along with some religious groups, are lobbying to keep ABS-CBN off the air with the rejection of a new broadcast franchise.
The Manila Times, meanwhile, published a story on how members of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Legislative Franchises are expected to vote on the ABS-CBN franchise bill.
"Ironically, it is these clumsy attempts at mind conditioning that clearly pose a threat to the fairness and impartiality of the committee. By trying to poison the well of public opinion, those spreading this propaganda are trying to blackmail Congress into acceding to their demands," the House Speaker said.
ABS-CBN officials appeared 12 times before the House legislative franchises and good government committees starting in May to appeal for a renewal of the network’s 25-year franchise and answer allegations of franchise violations.
Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chair of the House franchise panel, said the two committees would reconvene on Thursday to listen to the summations of Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and SAGIP Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta.
Cayetano on Monday appealed to his colleagues to vote on ABS-CBN's franchise bid according to their "conscience."
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on May 5 shut down ABS-CBN's free television and radio services despite its earlier commitment to let the network stay on the air while lawmakers deliberated on its license renewal.
Last week, the NTC also closed down ABS-CBN's digital broadcast, following the advice of Solicitor General Jose Calida, who in February sought to nullify the franchise of the network due to alleged abuses.
The shutdown "has deprived more than 69 million Filipinos of the kind of information, analysis and commentary, and public service provided by ABS-CBN News," including migrant workers, and those without internet connection and are reached solely by the network's signal, Integrated News chief Ma. Regina Reyes told lawmakers.
The ABS-CBN shutdown imperils the employment of some 11,000 workers, with the network considering retrenchments by August amid heavy losses.
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.