MANILA – Albay Representative Edcel Lagman on Tuesday said members of the House of Representatives have allegedly been asked to withdraw their support for a certain bill urging the lower house to act on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.
Lagman said his allegation is supported by “verified reports” and that at least 91 congressmen had already signed on Monday House Resolution 639 urging the panel to “report out without further delay for plenary action” for the consolidated version of the 11 pending bills asking for renewal of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise.
“The freedom of the press is corollary to the people’s right to information and the decimation of press freedom amounts to the demise of the people’s right to know,” a part of the resolution said.
The 11 bills proposing the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise remain pending in the House of Representatives. Half of them were allegedly filed as early as last year.
“Although Cayetano as Speaker is considered primus interpares or first among equals, the other Representatives are his co-equals who should not be disenfranchised from reasonably voting on the proposed renewal,” Lagman said.
“The Speaker cannot solely toll the death knell on bills or unduly delay the plenary deliberation on legislative measures. He has no monopoly over the fate of these measures.”
Speaker Cayetano is reported to also have personal complaints against with the network giant.
In previous reports, President Duterte has repeatedly said that he will “see to it that ABS-CBN’s franchise will not be extended.”
But the Palace maintains that it will not meddle in the affairs of Congress.
Cayetano’s suggestion is to hold discussions in the month of May regarding ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal bills or “until after emotions subside.”
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro) in an earlier interview with ANC’s “Early Edition” quoted Rep. Franz Alvarez (1st district Palawan), franchise committe chair, who supposedly said that the pending bills could not move forward because, “in exact words, wala pang clearance sa itaas.”
“That’s why he’s restrained from these bills,” Rodriguez added.
It was also gathered that Cayetano publicly announced through national media that he would ensure the issue would be given a fair and impartial hearing.
“If Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has personal grievances against ABS-CBN or objections against the renewal of the network’s franchise, he can vote against the renewal but must allow members of the House to cast their respective conscience votes on the renewal,” Lagman added.
Accordingly, Congress only has until March 11 to discuss the bill.
ABS-CBN Corp.’s legislative franchise is set to expire on March 30 and soon after Congress goes on recess in observance of the Holy Week.
House reporters also quoted Cayetano as saying that the House “has been carefully studying [the issue] from day one” but was prioritizing “how to prioritize urgent and important legislation.”
But Lagman countered: “Contrary to the claim of the House leadership, the House is not besieged by priority measures because only four bills have been prioritized so far.” (iam/sovereignph.com)