ABS-CBN was ‘slain’ despite surviving ‘grueling’ legislative scrutiny — solon
MANILA, Philippines — Despite surviving the “grueling” scrutiny of lawmakers, ABS-CBN was still “slain at the end of the show,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said after the network’s new franchise bid was denied in the House of Representatives on Friday.
“The protracted hearings conducted by the Committees on Legislative Franchises and Good Government followed a foregone conclusion, and despite ABS-CBN surviving the grueling legislative inquisition, it was slain at the end of the show with premeditation and abuse of superiority in numbers as aggravating circumstances,” Lagman said in a statement.
With 70 affirmative votes, the House legislative franchises committee adopted the panel’s technical working group’s (TWG) report recommending the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise application.
The House committee formed the TWG study and draft the recommendations on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal bid.
But Lagman said the TWG “was part of the charade.”
“While reasonable dispatch in the accomplishment of the work of a TWG is laudable, inordinate alacrity is suspect like in the case of the TWG which recommended the denial of the application of ABS-CBN Corporation for a franchise renewal in less than 24 hours after it was formed and despite the fact that it had to review more than 100 hours of hearings, voluminous documents and records, as well as major contentious issues,” the lawmaker said.
“The plight of the embattled network is mercifully over except for the herd voting where the dictates of partisanship would prevail over the demands of merit,” he added.
Lagman also criticized the remarks of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano urging lawmakers to vote according to their conscience.
“The pretense of the Speaker for a ‘conscience vote’ was unmasked by his own closing statement at the end of the hearings which was a virtual final summation for the ‘antis’ rooting for the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal,” he said.
Cayetano had also supposedly blasted “big business,” like ABS-CBN, for “purportedly meddling in politics and supporting favored candidates,” according to Lagman.
But Lagman argued that ABS-CBN was able to grow as a “big business” because the Filipino people continued to support it and in return, the network “paid back” with “admirable public service.”
The congressman also pointed out that no less than the Fair Election Act “encourages television and radio networks to participate or ‘meddle’ in politics to the extent of broadcasting negative advertisement, provided the rival candidates or parties are afforded equal time and the opportunity to reply.”
“In fact, it is during the election campaign that the freedom of the press is accorded primacy in strengthening the right of suffrage by giving the electorate maximum access to political and partisan propaganda,” Lagman said.
“The Fair Election Act does not enforce neutrality on mass media because to impose neutrality is anathema to freedom of the press,” he added.
He further said that any alleged violation of ABS-CBN “must be delimited and assessed” on its ability to provide adequate public service, meet its tax obligations and abide by the self-regulation provision under its franchise.
“Not one of these sections was proved to have been violated by ABS-CBN,” Lagman said.
The vote followed a series of long hearings in the lower chamber, which tackled various issues such as citizenship of the network’s chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez, alleged labor violations, tax evasion, as well as alleged political bias, among others.
Prior to this, ABS-CBN was already forced off the air after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered the shut down of its television and radio operations nationwide a day after its franchise expired on May 4.
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