Cayetano hits ‘mind-conditioning’ ahead of ABS-CBN franchise vote

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano doused rumors that House leaders and religious groups are allegedly issuing threats so lawmakers would reject the franchise application of beleaguered media network ABS-CBN.

In a statement on Wednesday, July 8, the Speaker slammed what he described called as “clumsy attempts at mind-conditioning” targeting the members of the House committee on legislative franchises, which is expected to hand down their verdict on ABS-CBN soon. (READ: Scenarios: What happens to ABS-CBN franchise after House panel vote?)

“Rumors of threats and intimidation coming from certain groups, even linking it with specific religious organizations, and congressional leaders are completely false and is an unproductive exercise in trying to manipulate the vote to favor a particular decision,” Cayetano said.

He then accused the alleged rumormongers of blackmailing Congress.

“Ironically, it is these clumsy attempts at mind conditioning that clearly pose a threat to the fairness and impartiality of the committee. By trying to poison the well of public opinion, those spreading this propaganda are trying to blackmail Congress into acceding to their demands,” said the Speaker.

“We advise all sides to continue to advocate, but never to engage in black propaganda and fake news,” added the Taguig City-Pateros 1st District congressman.

Cayetano – President Rodrigo Duterte's losing running mate in the 2016 polls – has accused ABS-CBN of unfair election coverage. Yet he wants legislators to exercise a “conscience vote” when they decide on ABS-CBN’s franchise.

The Speaker did not give any names in his statement, but he is likely referring to rumors saying presidential son and House Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte has reportedly teamed up with the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) to block ABS-CBN’s franchise.

One of the network's staunchest accusers in the House is an INC member – Sagip Representative and Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta,.

Marcoleta has become notorious for the way he berated ABS-CBN’s executives and lawmakers in the past 12 hearings. He was part of the independent minority bloc in the previous 17th Congress, but he bolted the group because his church ordered him to do so.

It’s also no secret that Paolo Duterte is not in favor of giving ABS-CBN a franchise. He had co-authored a resolution calling for a probe into ABS-CBN’s alleged violations of its franchise terms.

President Duterte, Paolo's father, has long been issuing threats against ABS-CBN after the network failed to air P6.6 million worth of its paid political aids during the 2016 campaign.

ABS-CBN also broadcasted an anti-Duterte ad during the same campaign, which was paid for by then-opposition senator and vice presidential bet Antonio Trillanes IV.

On Wednesday, Cayetano reiterated his call for the House legislative franchises members to vote according to how they assessed the outcome of the ABS-CBN hearings.

“As the committee hearing the franchise of ABSCBN approaches the day where its members have to decide on the fate of the network, the House leadership would like reiterate that each vote must and will be based on the appreciation of the facts as they have been presented by both sides during these exhaustive proceedings, as well as the application of the relevant laws and public policy,” Cayetano said.

The House committees on legislative franchises as well as good government and public accountability are set to wrap up their joint hearings on ABS-CBN on Thursday, July 9. No final date has been set for when the legislative franchises panel would vote on the media giant's franchise.

ABS-CBN is applying for a new franchise after its old one lapsed on May 4, prompting the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to shut it down the next day. The NTC later ordered ABS-CBN to also stop broadcasting its Sky Direct and TVPlus channels. –