HOUSE SPEAKER Alan Peter S. Cayetano reiterated on Friday his assurance that the House of Representatives will do its job on the matter of the ABS-CBN Corp. broadcast franchise.
“So for those asking what Congress will do — the answer is simple — our job. The [House] committee on legislative franchises will conduct hearings in a manner that is consistent with what we have always said. That is — fair, impartial, thorough, and comprehensive,” he said in a Facebook post.
He said while the issuance of a cease-and-desist order by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) “unnecessarily complicates the issue, it does not change the fact that the exclusive constitutional authority to grant, deny, extend, revoke, or modify broadcast franchises — including having the primary jurisdiction to make an initial determination whether an application for a legislative franchise should be granted or denied — still resides in Congress, and Congress alone.”
“As for the sudden flip-flopping of the NTC and the unconstitutional meddling by the Solicitor General in the business of Congress, I promise you — there will be a reckoning,” Mr. Cayetano added.
In March, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba assured the House of Representatives during a committee on legislative franchises hearing that the commission would issue a provisional authority that would allow ABS-CBN to continue broadcasting until Congress makes a decision on its franchise.
Mr. Cayetano said: “With this assurance, we wasted no time in addressing the bigger threat facing the country. During the two-month Congressional break our members, led by Majority Floor Leader [Ferdinand] Martin [G.] Romualdez worked tirelessly to address the now COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic. ”
Palawan Rep. Franz E. Alvarez, who chairs the legislative franchises committee, and Mr. Cayetano sent a letter to the NTC enjoining the commission to grant a provisional authority to the media network.
Mr. Cayetano said they were “ambushed” by the NTC on Tuesday, when it issued its cease and desist order.
“Despite their assurance given under oath. Despite the legal opinion of the Department of Justice. Despite a resolution from the Senate, and several verbal and written assurances given to Congress — the NTC appears to have succumbed to pressure from the Solicitor General, and issued a cease and desist order to ABS-CBN,” he said
In view of the growing threat of COVID-19, Mr. Cayetano said that the House leadership “tried to gain a consensus with the Executive Department, through the DOJ and the NTC, to allow us time to properly address the ABS-CBN issue in the midst of all the other more important problems facing the country.”
In a statement on Friday, Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman said that the House leadership “can redeem itself of its culpability in the ABS-CBN franchise fiasco by immediately fast-tracking the renewal of the giant network’s franchise.”
“Cayetano must not wash his hands and absolve himself of blame at the expense of others. Admitting one’s fault is an earmark of true leadership,” he said.
Meanwhile, Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Michael T. Defensor filed House Resolution 846 on Friday calling on appropriate House committees to conduct an investigation on the NTC and Solicitor General Jose C. Calida for “perjury and for violation of the code of conduct, ethical standards, and the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.”
“Verily, the orchestrated conduct of the NTC Commissioners and its Officers and the Solicitor General directly subverts the plenary authority of the House of Representatives and, by maliciously breaking the NTC’s commitment made under oath, constitutes the criminal acts of perjury and violations of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” part of the resolution read.
NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo V. Cabarios did not immediately reply to text and Viber messages seeking comments.
At the Senate, Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares said her panel is committed to immediately tackle the ABS-CBN franchise once it is transmitted to the Senate.
“As Senate President Vicente C. Sotto [III] vowed, the Senate will not waste a moment once the bill reaches the Chamber, as this matter is imbued with public interest,” Ms. Poe-Llamanzares, chair of the public services committee, said in a statement, Friday. — Genshen L. Espedido