House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday admitted that he was hesitant to support the renewal of the television and radio franchises of ABS-CBN on personal grounds, despite having previously said that Congress would be fair to the media conglomerate.
In an interview yesterday on the show “Headstart” on ANC, a cable channel owned by ABS-CBN, Cayetano, a vocal supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, accused the media company of interfering in politics.
“People like me, I also have some objections” to the franchise extension, Cayetano told host Karen Davila. “I’ll tell you, this is my personal [opinion], OK?”
“On one hand, I feel that we have to protect the freedom of the press and freedom of expression; on the other hand, I feel that there are certain instances in history, and in the 2016 election, that some sectors or leaders of ABS interfered [in elections] unjustly,” he said.
“So how do you sort it out? Like right now, we can debate that, and of course, you will stand up for the network but I’d rather have it in a hearing, straight talk, face to face, and talk about it.”
Cayetano also maintained that his reluctance to support ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal has nothing to do with the objections voiced by Duterte, who has publicly said several times that he would veto the renewal because the media company allegedly refused to air his political ads prior to the 2016 presidential elections despite being paid to do so.
Despite his misgivings, however, Cayetano promised that the House of Representatives will find a solution that was “acceptable” for everyone and beneficial to the country.
In the Philippines, radio and television stations have to secure a 25-year-franchise — approved by the House of Representatives — before they can operate. Since Duterte became president in 2016, he has signed 10 laws granting franchises to radio and television stations, Manila Bulletin reported. In the case of television station TV5, Duterte abstained from signing off on the franchise renewal but didn’t veto it outright, allowing the renewal to automatically lapse into law.
ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, however, has faced multiple roadblocks. Its franchise will expire in March 2020, but the panel chaired by Congressman Franz Alvarez of Palawan has yet to discuss the bills seeking to extend ABS-CBN’s license to air. This despite the existence of no fewer than six proposed laws seeking the renewal of its franchise.
Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo said in July that the renewal of the franchise will depend on the House of Representatives, and not on the president’s whims.
Observers have said that ABS-CBN is more than just a media company. Its newscasters and celebrities have become popular all over the country thanks to its wide reach, enabling many to launch successful political careers.
Its newscaster Noli de Castro, for example, was a former vice president of the Philippines, while former reporters Loren Legarda and Sol Aragones have gone on to become congresswomen.