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A shameful vote?: Why House still refuses to identify those who rejected ABS-CBN franchise bid

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 09 2021 04:00 PM | Updated as of Jul 09 2021 06:02 PM

A shameful vote?: Why House still refuses to identify those who rejected ABS-CBN franchise bid 1
ACT-CIS party list representative Eric Go Yap greets Bulacan 1st District representative Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado after the voting on ABS-CBN’s application for franchise renewal on July 10, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

This article is part of a series commemorating the House of Representatives' 70-11 vote on July 10, 2020 rejecting ABS-CBN's franchise renewal. 

MANILA — "Are you proud of that vote?"

It took Valenzuela Rep. Eric Martinez a 6-second pause to compose himself and answer what seemed to be a plain question. He and 69 other congressmen had voted to kill ABS-CBN's franchise bid 3 months earlier.

"Of course, you have to stand with what your . . . With what your decision is," Martinez replied.

It was October 2020, and Martinez found himself in an awkward television moment when he guested on ANC, the cable news channel of ABS-CBN

In a span of 2 minutes, Martinez responded to related questions by the anchor. 

"You know, I just have to move . . . Let’s just have to move forward with it and I just leave it at that.

"I stand by my vote. It may not be popular to some . . . I just based my vote on the merits of what I saw," Martinez said. 

The decision of 70 lawmakers on July 10 spelled the loss of livelihood for thousands of ABS-CBN employees and indirect stakeholders, as well as critical information needed by millions of Filipinos nationwide and overseas amid a crippling pandemic.

'UNOFFICIAL LIST'

Martinez is one of only a few who have publicly justified their decision to reject ABS-CBN’s franchise bid.

Majority of the 70 lawmakers, however, chose to remain unidentified. 

ABS-CBN News reached out to several offices of the House of Representatives to obtain an official list of lawmakers who denied the Kapamilya network's franchise bid, but these efforts led nowhere. 

However, an unofficial list, vetted by ABS-CBN News sources from Congress, named the following as those who voted to kill ABS-CBN's franchise bid: 

A shameful vote?: Why House still refuses to identify those who rejected ABS-CBN franchise bid 2

WHY THE SECRECY

Many are puzzled why most lawmakers behind ABS-CBN's franchise rejection have remained unidentified. 

According to Jean Franco, associate professor of the UP Diliman Political Science Department, this translates to lack of transparency and accountability. 

"Unang-una, it’s just a manifestation of the House of Representatives’ lack of accountability and transparency. One is they don’t want to be accountable for their decision. If you continue to hide, [that’s what it] means," the analyst said.

Fear of vendetta could have also played a role, Franco added.

"They probably are scared that eventually, media people, not just from ABS-CBN, will get back at them, especially since elections are coming, that’s why they’re trying to hide it."

But Franco also underscored the fact that denying ABS-CBN a license to broadcast was a Palace-backed position. President Rodrigo Duterte had many times vowed to put ABS-CBN out of business prior to the franchise killing. 

"They just have to follow orders, which is not surprising because historically, that's how the House behaves towards the president," she said.

TARNISHING A TARNISHED IMAGE

The non-disclosure of the names of those who voted against ABS-CBN's franchise is a new low in the context of the people's need for more information, said Franco.

"It makes you question the practices of the House. We are in an era where information is very relevant and yet they continue to be opaque to the Filipino people. It’s terrible, it doesn’t bode well on the image of the House of Representatives, as if naman they have a good image to protect in the first place," Franco said.

Franco added that this also demonstrates the arbitrary environment in which lawmakers of the House of Representatives operates.

"I’m not just talking about the franchise bill, but also in the future. Ano pa 'yung pwede nilang itago in the future kumbaga? (What else can they hide from the public in the future?)."