Plenary debates on ABS-CBN ‘possible’ but still boils down to numbers – Cayetano

Mara Cepeda
Plenary debates on ABS-CBN ‘possible’ but still boils down to numbers – Cayetano

House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano during plenary hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 09, 2019. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

'So is it possible? Yes. Is it regular procedure? No.... And it really depends on the numbers din kung ano'ng mangyayari,' says Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said elevating ABS-CBN’s franchise bid to the plenary – where the entire 301-member chamber can vote on it – is “possible,” but it would still boil down to the majority if these proceedings would happen in the first place. 

This was Cayetano’s response when asked during an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source on Thursday, July 23, to react to the Makabayan bloc’s plea for the House committee on legislative franchises to allow the plenary to vote with finality on the panel’s rejection of ABS-CBN’s franchise. 

The Speaker said that as a general rule, a rejected franchise like that of ABS-CBN no longer reaches the plenary. 

But the entire chamber has the power to change their own rules; it’s just a matter of getting enough numbers to do so. 

“Everything was done in accordance with the rules, everything was done openly, transparent, legal. So as a general rule kapag dineny ang franchise, hindi na pupunta sa plenary ‘yan (when a franchise is denied, it doesn’t go to the plenary anymore). But the plenary under the Constitution has all the powers,” Cayetano said.

“So it depends on how the House will decide. So is it possible? Yes. Is it regular procedure? No…. And it really depends on the numbers din kung ano’ng mangyayari (And it really depends on the numbers what would happen),” the Taguig City-Pateros 1st District congressman said. 

On Monday, July 20, the 6 progressive Makabayan legislators wrote a letter to House committee on legislative franchises chairperson Franz Alvarez urging him to formally submit to the plenary the committee report and resolution that its members adopted after they overwhelmingly rejected ABS-CBN’s franchise.

The Makabayan bloc ultimately wants the House plenary to be given a chance to debate on the embattled network’s franchise and put it up to a final vote.

But Cayetano explained it is already procedural for all House panels to submit the bills, resolutions, and reports they approved to the influential committee on rules, which has jurisdiction over which measures are going to be tackled by the plenary.

The rules committee, chaired by House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, also has the power over the legislative procedures in the lower chamber.

This means that for ABS-CBN to get a reprieve from the House, Makabayan’s proposal for the plenary debates and voting must not only pass through the committee on rules, but the entire lower chamber itself.

Lawmakers traditionally vote according to what has been agreed upon by their political parties, with party leaders often inclined to follow the marching orders of the Speaker. 

This is not in favor of ABS-CBN, whose franchise was already rejected by 70 members of the House committee on legislative franchises. They would be voting on the media giant’s franchise bid again if it reaches the plenary.

Most legislators are allied with President Rodrigo Duterte, who has an axe to grind against the network. Cayetano, Duterte’s running mate in the 2016 polls, also accused the network of unfair election coverage.

The Speaker has repeatedly justified the House committee’s junking of ABS-CBN’s franchise, saying his colleagues did Filipinos a favor by helping dismantle one of the country’s oligarchs – the Lopezes who own ABS-CBN.

In the wake of its franchise denial, the Philippines’ largest media network started retrenching its workers. The media giant has also lost P3.8 billion in market capitalization after it was ordered to close down when its old franchise expired on May 4. 

ABS-CBN is now focusing on its digital and cable businesses following its closure. – 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.