MANILA, Philippines – House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda and Quezon City 5th District Representative Alfred Vargas – both of whom had careers with ABS-CBN before joining politics – did not make a stand for the network’s franchise.
Both cited conflict of interest for their refusal to vote.
Legarda, an ABS-CBN reporter for 12 years, did not exercise her power to cast a vote as an ex-officio member of the House committee on legislative franchises when it decided to junk ABS-CBN’s franchise bid on Friday, July 10. (READ: After junking franchise, House panel wants to probe ABS-CBN property, digital TV)
She was not present during Friday’s hearing.
In a letter addressed to House panel chairperson Franz Alvarez, the Antique congresswoman said her authorship of House Bill 6293 – which would have renewed ABS-CBN’s now-expired franchise – “speaks for itself.”
But in the same breath, Legarda said she was “constrained” to join the voting because Section 31, Rule IX of the House rules supposedly barred her from doing so as a bill author.
The rule states: “A member who is the author of a bill or a resolution referred to a committee or, if there be several authors, the first 2 authors, named in the bill or resolution, or their duly designated co-authors, as the case may be, shall be considered as members of the committee of referral for the purpose and throughout the duration of the consideration of said bill or resolution, but shall have no vote in the committee.”
This rule applies to lawmakers who authored a bill but are not regular or ex-officio members of the committee to which the measure was referred.
But Legarda is a Deputy Speaker, which automatically makes her a member of all House committees and is therefore entitled to cast her vote on any bill.
In fact, 3 ABS-CBN franchise bill authors who were members of the panel voted in favor of the network’s franchise, among the only 11 lawmakers to say yes to the embattled network. (READ: ‘Big blow against press freedom’: ABS-CBN franchise bill authors slam panel verdict)
They were Batangas 6th District Representative Vilma Santos Recto, Laguna 3rd District Representative Sol Aragones, and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate.
Recto, known as the “Star for All Seasons,” had a stellar career as an actress and starred in a number of ABS-CBN shows, while Aragones was a former journalist with ABS-CBN.
That Legarda did not cast her vote was surprising, especially because she had vouched for her former home network during the franchise hearings. (READ: Representatives Vilma Santos, Loren Legarda defend ABS-CBN: Network ‘went above and beyond’ duty)
Legarda also said in her letter that she had been hosting the documentary series “Dayaw” on ABS-CBN News Channel in the past 5 years – that is, until the network’s franchise expired on May 4 and the National Telecommunications Commission shut it down.
Legarda had conceptualized the show along with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to promote the country’s heritage, an advocacy of the congresswoman.
“While I do not receive monetary compensation as host of the show, I deem it appropriate to refraim from participating [in the vote] in view of any potential conflict of interest, whether directly or indirectly, in so promoting my advocacy through this project,” Legarda said.
Vargas inhibits ‘out of propriety’
Vargas, a regular member of the legislative franchises panel, was present during the hearing but inhibited from voting.
“My heart goes out to ABS-CBN, its employees, and other workers whose livelihood depends on the network,” said Vargas in a statement he posted on Twitter minutes before the voting began on Friday.
He deemed it necessary to inhibit since he he had guested in a number of ABS-CBN shows, even producing some of them. As an actor, Vargas appeared in Kapamilya shows like “Pangako Sa ‘Yo” and “Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan.”
Vargas argued the House rules and the Code of Conduct for Public Officials “impel” him to inhibit from the proceedings.
“Thus, out of propriety and as dictated by law, I am duty bound to inhibit myself from voting on the application for the franchise of ABS-CBN,” the Quezon City congressman said.
Ex-Kapamilya who said ‘no’
Three other legislators who were members of the House committee on legislative franchises and who were formerly Kapamilya stars reportedly voted no to ABS-CBN’s franchise.
They are Deputy Speaker and Laguna 1st District Representative Dan Fernandez, Quezon City 2nd District Representative Precious Hipolito Castelo, and Manila 3rd District Representative John Marvin “Yul Servo” Nieto.
Rappler already reached out to them for comment but they have yet to reply as of posting time. – Rappler.com