BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR and RAYMOND AFRICA
PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday said he has accepted the apology of media network ABS-CBN but is leaving to Congress the issue of its franchise renewal.
“Yes. Nandiyan iyan (It’s there). I accept the apology, of course,” the President said in a chance interview after the Ani ng Dangal awarding ceremony in Malacañang,
But the President rejected the P2.6-million refund from the media network for its failure to air some of his political ads during the campaign for the 2016 presidential elections. He said ABS-CBN should just donate it any charity institution it chooses.
The apology was issued during a Senate hearing on Monday by Carlo L. Katigbak, ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer. “We were sorry if we offended the President. It is not the intention of the network (not to air some of the ads), we felt we were just abiding by the laws and regulations that surround the airing of political ads and we would like to make a categorical statement … that ABS will not and does not have a political agenda,” Katigbak said.
Duterte has been criticizing the network for the non-airing of the ads and has been vocal against the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise which expires in May.
Duterte, in the chance interview, also said he could not tell Solicitor General Jose Calida to withdraw the quo warranto petition he filed against the network two weeks ago because, he said, he has no control over the Office of the Solicitor General.
Calida wants the franchise revoked for violations allegedly committed by the network.
The President said he could not stop the solicitor general if the latter announces there is a violation and he is investigating it.
“The SolGen does not clear with me, unlike the Secretary of Justice,” he said.
Duterte also said he has no say on the renewal of the franchise because “fundamentally,” the decision is with the House of Representatives.
Asked if he would sign the franchise bill into law if it is passed by Congress, Duterte said he would decide when the time comes.
“It will be a difficult decision, really, so I will, I‘ll cross the bridge (when I get there),” he said
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services which conducted the hearing on Monday, chided Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano who called senators “suck-ups” and “over acting” for conducting the inquiry ahead of the House.
In a TV interview, Poe said Cayetano seemed to have failed to maintain a level of respect and decorum when he started called the senators names.
“When I deal with counterparts from the House — at least me personally and many of my colleagues — we try to maintain a level of decorum because name calling cheapens the debate,” Poe said.
“And when you start name-calling, kung gumagamit ka ng mga salitang ganoon ibig sabihin nawawalan ka ng basehan para sa tamang argumento (when you use words like that, that means you have lost your ground for a right argument),” she added.
Poe said Cayetano knows legislative procedures.
“Speaker Cayetano is a very intelligent politician and he has been a lawmaker for many years and our Constitution grants both houses of Congress oversight. Section 6 Article 21 allows us to conduct hearings in aid of legislation and find out if franchise holders are compliant with the agreements that they had with the government. That’s number one,” Poe said.
“Number two, I don’t know why they would think this is something out of the ordinary.
We’ve conducted hearings, with the budget and as well as taxes, even either simultaneously or ahead of the House,” she added.
Poe denied she gave preferential treatment to ABS-CBN, saying she sees the urgency of conducting the hearing so that the network’s more than 11,000 regular and casual employees can have an assurance that they will still have jobs in the following months.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III would not want to engage Cayetano in a word war. “That is his opinion. Let’s leave it at that,” he said.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon yesterday filed a concurrent resolution which expresses the sense of both houses of Congress to authorize the National Telecommunications Communications to allow ABS-CBN Corporation from operating beyond the termination of its franchise on May 4.
“It is therefore respectfully submitted that the Congress, by concurrent resolution, may authorize the National Telecommunications Commission to issue provisional authority, subject to such terms and conditions as the NTC may deem fit, to ABS-CBN and other entities similarly situated, authorizing them to continue operating subject to Congress’ eventual disposition of the renewal application,” Drilon said in filing Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 6.
Drilon sees the urgency of extending the network’s operations since the bills for its franchise renewal is still pending in Congress.
“Only eight session days remain before the expiration of the franchise of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation and both the Senate and the House of Representatives need additional time to review and determine whether or not ABS-CBN Corporation shall be granted the renewal of franchise,” Drilon said.
The House committee on legislative franchise has formally requested the NCT to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate effective from May 4, 2020 until such time that Congress has made a decision on bills seeking to renew it.
A letter signed by Cayetano and panel chair Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez was sent to the NTC yesterday following the Speaker’s assurance that the network will be able to continue its broadcast while Congress is deliberating on the renewal of its franchise. – With Wendell Vigilia