House of Representatives

Cayetano counters Robredo, Poe: No chilling effect after dead ABS-CBN franchise

Mara Cepeda
'I invite both the Vice President and our good senator to read the decision, rewatch the hearings, and maybe come to understand that not breaking the law is not the same as obeying it,' says Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano told two of the country’s female leaders that a House committee’s rejection of the ABS-CBN franchise will supposedly not have any chilling effect on the press and all other industries required to secure franchises from Congress.

In a lengthy Facebook post on Tuesday, July 14, the Speaker took issue with separate statements made by Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Grace Poe warning the public against the wide-ranging implications of the House committee on legislative franchises’ verdict against ABS-CBN

“Both Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Grace Poe have also warned of the ‘chilling’ effect this will have on journalists and the freedom of expression. This is completely false,” the Speaker said. 

He insisted that the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise will have a chilling effect only on those who have breached the law. 

“Again, I invite both the Vice President and our good senator to read the decision, rewatch the hearings, and maybe come to understand that not breaking the law is not the same as obeying it,” Cayetano said. 

“And that the only ‘chilling effect’ the denial has [is] on those who would abuse the system and hold cavalier attitudes towards our laws, and even the Philippine Constitution,” the Taguig City-Pateros 1st District congressman added. 

On Friday, July 10, the House committee on legislative franchises overwhelmingly voted against granting a franchise to ABS-CBN, which was ordered to shut down after its old franchise expired on May 4.

Lawmakers cited the network’s alleged foreign ownership and violations of various tax and labor laws as among the reasons for their refusal to allow ABS-CBN to operate again. (READ: After junking franchise, House panel wants to probe ABS-CBN property, digital TV)

Robredo then released a statement saying it will no longer be far-fetched for newsrooms to think twice when making editorial decisions after what lawmakers did to the country’s largest media network. (READ: Robredo warns of ‘chilling effect’ on media after rejection of ABS-CBN franchise)

A day later, Poe reacted to the issue, saying that the House panel’s decision on ABS-CBN affects all other franchises.

“The non-renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise indeed sets a dangerous precedent for all other franchises. The high and unforgiving bar to which the media entity was judged affects the legitimacy of all other franchise holders which use Philippine Depositary Receipts, tax schemes, and digital platforms – all of which were treated legal before the instant case,” the senator said. 

Cayetano has long claimed that ABS-CBN’s franchise is not an issue of press freedom – even if his colleagues’ resolution on ABS-CBN means the network will stay closed and thousands of its employees could lose their jobs in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Speaker even said the House legislative franchises panel did Filipinos a favor by moving against one of the country’s “oligarchs,” the Lopezes who own ABS-CBN. (READ: Cayetano on ABS-CBN: ‘Reclaiming patrimony from oligarchs’)

Journalists and other sectors, however, have condemned the ABS-CBN franchise rejection as the Duterte administration’s latest move to silence Philippine media.  (READ: PH journalists slam rejection of ABS-CBN franchise: ‘History is never kind to tyrants’)

Duterte and Cayetano – running mates in the 2016 elections – both have axes to grind against ABS-CBN. The President himself has repeatedly threatened to have the network shut down, a threat which his allies in Congress fulfilled by thumbing down ABS-CBN’s franchise. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.