MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said President Rodrigo Duterte leaving the fate of ABS-CBN's franchise renewal to Congress would push the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to grant the network provisional authority to operate beyond May 4 – the day its franchise expires.
This was Cayetano's response when asked to comment on Duterte accepting the apology of the broadcast giant for failing to air P7 million worth of the latter's political advertisements during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The President then said the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise "lies in the House," which already wrote a letter "enjoining" the NTC to allow the network to keep operating beyond May 4 while lawmakers are still deliberating on the bills that would renew its franchise. (READ: Cayetano: House notice to NTC 'sufficient' to allow ABS-CBN to keep operating)
"The statement of the President that now, it's now up to Congress, strengthens our position that NTC will abide by our letter. Because yes, there is a separation of powers and the NTC is under the executive, but it's the Chief Executive na ang nagsabing 'Kongreso ang magde-decide niyan' (who already said, 'Congress will decide on that')," Cayetano said in a chance interview at the Taguig City University.
The House leadership's letter to the NTC is consistent with the view of Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra that Congress may authorize the NTC to give ABS-CBN provisional authority to continue operating after the lapse of its franchise.
Still, Cayetano refuses to schedule any House hearings on ABS-CBN's franchise within the next two weeks before the 18th Congress takes a break on March 14.
He said it would "do more harm than good" both for the supporters and critics of ABS-CBN, as the limited time is supposedly not enough to cover all sides of the issue.
He argued that if the House were to hold the first hearing, 20% of the time would already be allotted to the opening statement of ABS-CBN's executives. Cayetano then said resource persons objecting to ABS-CBN's franchise renewal would follow.
"So assuming may 10 mag-o-object o kahit 5 lang, baka dalawa o 3 lang madinig namin, then we will stop the hearing, then magbi-break kami. Won't that be unfair sa ABS-CBN?" Cayetano said.
(So assuming there would be 5 to 10 people who would object, we would be able to hear only 2 or 3 of them, then we'd have to take a break. Won't that be unfair to ABS-CBN?)
The Speaker insists the House can only schedule a hearing in May or early August, when ABS-CBN's franchise would have already expired.