ABS-CBN taken hostage by House to ensure neutrality in 2022 polls — solon

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MANILA – The country's leading news and entertainment company is being taken hostage by the House leadership to ensure it will be neutral in the 2022 elections, an opposition lawmaker said on Friday.

Speaking to ANC's "Early Edition," Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said foot-dragging the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN Corp., which is set to expire on May 4, was meant to tie the network's hands.

"The more this renewal pends, the more ABS-CBN will be a docile hostage waiting for the renewal of its franchise. I hope it does not become such a hostage but apparently, realities would show that the hands of ABS-CBN are tied," he said.

Enforcing neutrality, Lagman said, is a derogation of the fundamental freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

"The right of a network to broadcast critical statements or to have a reasonable preference is part of the freedom of the press and freedom of expression," he said.

For Lagman, this has been the goal of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, whom he criticized for not acting on the 11 ABS-CBN franchise renewal bills pending before Congress.

"He said the hearings can still be after the 2022 presidential and general elections so that ABS-CBN should be neutral, should not take sides and should not interfere in the elections," he said.

"The cat is out of the bag," he added.

The lower chamber's move to hold a hearing on ABS-CBN franchise bills on March 10 is also insufficient.

"That's only 1 day… It's a very limited proceeding because it will center principally, as mentioned by the Speaker, on the instruction to NTC [National Telecommunications Commission] to grant ABS-CBN and its affiliates/subsidiaries provisional authority to operate," Lagman said.

Congress is set to adjourn after March 11 for the Lenten break and lawmakers will resume session on May 4. 

Though President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted the apology of ABS-CBN over a negative political ad paid for by former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, the House leadership is still waiting for a "categorical answer" from the executive department.

"A clear signal because the acceptance of the apology by the President may not be a clear signal. The statement of [Davao City Mayor] Sara [Duterte] that she's in favor of the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise and the entire city of Davao, may not be the expected signal," he said.

CAYETANO DENIES INFLUENCE RAP

Last Monday, Cayetano denied that the delay in the chamber's action over ABS-CBN franchise bills were meant to give politicians control over the network. 

"‘Yung sinasabi namang iimpluwensiyahan sila (ABS-CBN), bakit? Wala namang eleksyon e… Ibang usapan kung sasabihin namin sa inyo, hanggang eve ng eleksyon, walang franchise ang ABS-CBN," Cayetano told reporters. 

(Why will people say that ABS-CBN will be influenced? There is no election. It will be a different issue if until the eve of the elections, ABS-CBN has no franchise.) 

With 65 years in service, ABS-CBN "know[s] how to resist politicians," added the lawmaker. 

"I will do all I can ma-prevent that anyone will take advantage of the situation and try to dictate or influence ‘yung news ng ABS-CBN," he said. 

In a press briefing on Feb. 27, Cayetano said the franchise issue of ABS-CBN is an opportunity to balance democracy, media freedom and big business.

"The ABS-CBN issue is a gateway or is a big gateway; is an opportunity for us to balance democracy, media freedom of the press, the role of media, the role of big business and of political actors in our country," he said.

Cayetano, who lost in the 2016 vice-presidential elections, earlier said he wants media networks to become neutral.

"If we grant them (ABS-CBN) the franchise for the next 25 years, what reforms shall they undertake to make sure there is fair coverage and they won’t interfere with the election?" he said.

ABS-CBN Corp., which employs over 5,000 workers, operates free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM. 

The whole ABS-CBN Group, including subsidiaries (e.g. news.abs-cbn.com, Skycable, The Filipino Channel, iWanttv, Kidzania, etc.) has over 11,000 employees. 

News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.

Source From:https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/03/06/20/abs-cbn-taken-hostage-by-house-to-ensure-neutrality-in-2022-polls-solon

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