Cayetano again says ABS-CBN franchise not press freedom issue
MANILA, Philippines – Ahead of a House committee’s looming verdict on whether to grant or deny ABS-CBN's franchise application, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano once again denied this was a press freedom issue.
Rather, Cayetano argued during the 13th joint House committee hearing on Thursday, July 9, that the main issue regarding ABS-CBN’s franchise is that of the broadcast company owners possibly using the media to protect their business interests. (READ: Cayetano lashes out at critics: ABS-CBN franchise issue 'not about silencing media’)
“How shall we decide on the claims that it will be a blow to press freedom if the owners of a private media corporation is denied the privilege of using public airwaves for a private business that protects their interest and supports their handpicked candidates, while targeting those who oppose them?” asked the Speaker in his closing remarks.
“I submit that this is not press freedom; it is the theft of government from the people while hiding under the pretense of press freedom. So, this is what we will have to decide [on],” added the Taguig City-Pateros 1st District congressman.
Cayetano made the statement just a day after lawmakers put ABS-CBN on the hot seat for its alleged biased reporting of issues, which the network's news chief Ging Reyes vehemently denied.
The Speaker, who ran but lost for vice president in 2016, had accused ABS-CBN of “favoring” other candidates and giving more air time to those whom the network supposedly backed.
In his speech, Cayetano said big businesses should not be allowed to use the media to protect their interests and influence the elections. (READ: ABS-CBN failed to air ads of many candidates, not just Duterte’s)
“We will all agree on the basic premise that big business, conjoined with commercial media, should not be allowed to engage in partisan politics by wielding its power to protect their interest, meddle and interfere in elections, and surreptitiously support certain candidates in the guise of reporting the news,” said Cayetano.
He then went on to compare ABS-CBN with its rival network GMA-7, saying the latter had not been accused of biased reporting because its owners were not protecting their business interests.
“Malinaw naman pagka 'yong isang network katulad ng GMA-7 po, 'no, may negative din naman po, binibira din naman po tayo o ilan po sa atin. Pero bakit hindi po ina-accuse ng bias? Kasi po walang negosyong hiwalay na pinoprotektahan,” said Cayetano.
(It’s clear that another network like GMA-7 also run negative stories criticizing us or some of us. But why aren’t they being accused of bias? Because they aren’t protecting any businesses.)
The Speaker earlier said he would not be imposing how lawmakers should vote on ABS-CBN’s franchise, urging them to exercise their conscience vote.
Cayetano also slammed rumors that the president's son and House Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte has supposedly teamed up with the politically influential Iglesia ni Cristo to threaten lawmakers into rejecting ABS-CBN’s franchise. (READ: Cayetano hits ‘mind-conditioning’ ahead of ABS-CBN franchise vote)
Romualdez asks public to respect House panel’s decision
In the same hearing, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said he was hoping his colleagues would be guided by their “sense of duty” when they give their verdict on ABS-CBN.
“After we conclude our deliberation on ABS CBN's franchise application, I pray that all House members who will vote on the issue will be guided primarily by sense of duty as elected Representatives of our people in Congress,” the Leyte 1st District congressman said.
“In casting our votes, may the Constitution and existing laws of the land be our compasses,” he added.
Romualdez then called on Filipinos to respect whatever the House committee on legislative franchises will decide on the future of ABS-CBN.
“The framers of our Constitution have deemed it wise to give Congress the power to grant franchises, knowing fully well that our elected legislators will uphold the interest of their constituents at all times. Rest assured that the voice of our constituents and the voice of our people will prevail,” said the Majority Leader.
ABS-CBN’s franchise is in the hands of 92 legislators – 46 members of the legislative franchises panel and 46 House leaders, including Cayetano and Romualdez, who are ex-officio members of the committee. (READ: Scenarios: What happens to ABS-CBN franchise after House panel vote?)
Two party-list congressmen have already withdrawn their authorship of the bills granting ABS-CBN a franchise after hearing the accusations against the network in the past month. – Rappler.com