Cayetano says House to be “objective” on ABS-CBN franchise

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LAWMAKERS are open to any mode of scrutiny to make their judgment on the legislative franchise of media company ABS-CBN Corp. “more objective,” said House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano on Friday.

“Congress is open to any kind of mechanics to make our judgment more objective. You wanna get a panel of experts aside from the congressmen to join the hearing? Okay ako ‘dun (I’m fine with that),,” he told reporters.

“But the timing and the way we’re going to do the hearings is very important,” he said.

Mr. Cayetano said the case was “not that urgent” because ABS-CBN could still operate until March 2022 when the 18th Congress ends, as long as there is a pending bill for its franchise renewal.

He said the House of Representatives cannot immediately hold a hearing on the network’s franchise because “it will suck all the energy of the 18th Congress.”

“Kung tayo mag-hearing ngayon, alam mo, sasabihin ko sa inyo kung ano mangyayari: it will suck all the energy of the 18th Congress. Halos lahat ng miyembro, maga-attend. Mapapabayaan ang ibang mga importante,” he said.

(If we will hold a hearing now, what will happen is, it will suck all the energy of the 18th Congress. All the members will attend. Other important matters will be set aside.)

The House Speaker urged those opposing the renewal of the media company’s franchise to submit evidence to the House committee on legislative franchises. He said the move would allow their submissions to be forwarded to ABS-CBN for it to respond.

“That’s the way our democracy works — welcome the issues against ABS-CBN, but also welcome their reply, so that we can finally get somewhere with all of these,” he said.

Asked when the chamber will conduct a hearing, he said, “when the time comes but definitely before March 2022. Possibly in May if we have time and if we have cooler heads on all the issues. Worst case, after SONA (State of the Nation Address in July).”

Separately, ABS-CBN told the stock exchange on Friday that it had received the notice from the Supreme Court requiring it to file, within a non-extendible period of 10 days, a comment on the petition for quo warranto and temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction, filed by the Office of the Solicitor General.

“We will comply with the Notice of the Supreme Court,” it said. — Genshen L. Espedido