The ABS-CBN franchise debacle has divided and rocked the nation and our public officials, even those allied to President Rodrigo Duterte, who we can say is the main person behind the woes of the ailing network. With its expiry date nearing, the network’s employees are shaking in their boots thinking about what happens beyond 30 March. Although there have been statements that ABS-CBN can operate beyond the said date, there is no assurance for the workers to that they shall be maintained for the years to come in view of the monumental changes that will be implemented by the network giant.
Government officials, particularly those who were elected into their positions, are likewise in a quandary on what side to take. Some have called it a “press freedom” issue since it acts as prior restraint, while others call it a violation of its franchise for alleged practices in violation of the country’s election laws. Solicitor General Jose Calida delivered the killer blow with his filing of the quo warranto petition, similar to what he did to de facto Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. Mind you — Calida has a perfect win record in the Supreme Court.
The ball is now in the court of Congress, which now seemingly has two opposing teams on this issue: Senate and the House of Representatives. Today, 24 February, the Senate Committee on Public Services shall be holding its hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise. This shall be the only meeting on schedule in the Senate today; there will be no plenary session. Chairman Sen. Grace Poe will be the center of attention, and the country shall stand witness on her bias and partial take on this issue.
This was pointed out by former presidential spokesman, Atty. Harry Roque, when he guested in the weekly “PAIRfect” forum of Daily Tribune. He said, “I’m surprised that she’s very involved in the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise and she’s even the chairman of the committee that will review the legislative license, since her family has deep ties with the television network.” Roque explained, “Her mother Susan Roces, works with ABS-CBN, while the movie vault of her father, action movie king Fernando Poe Jr., are maintained by the network.”
Thus, it is clear as day that Poe must inhibit herself from the hearing, which will produce nothing, not even a committee report, since it will be an abridgement of the authority and jurisdiction of the House of Representatives, from where the bills on franchises must emanate. What will happen today is a hearing in aid of election, not for legislation at all. Why waste taxpayer’s money and schedule a hearing that will produce no results?
The scheduling of this hearing has been branded as “illegal” by some of the leaders of the House of Representatives, including Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, whose leadership has been placed under threat with the handling of the ABS-CBN franchise. There has been talk of a signature sheet being disseminated among congressmen who are in support of the franchise’s extension, but, in reality, said sheet will be converted into votes for a new Speaker to replace Cayetano.
As for Poe, her push for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal is obvious with her deep ties with the network that has made her famous enough to be senator. However, her intent is obviously to do another run for the presidency in 2022, under the wings of her father’s being recognized as the true probinsyano, the network’s most famous teleserye right now, with a storyline that has no ending. Poe found an ally with Senate President Tito Sotto, another celebrity, but made more famous by ABS-CBN’s rival network, GMA.
Thus, what shall happen today in the Senate is more of a “listening session” where ABS-CBN officials and others from the media can air their gripes in this unsettling situation. This will expectedly be shown live on national television to bring in more sympathy.
Regardless, the Senate and the people must remember that the buck stops with the President on this issue, mainly because he is the final signatory of bills passed for the President’s consideration.
Senate hearings and rallies are of no use if they are not in good terms with the approving authority. Vital time is wasted in these exercises. People should better yet turn on the television set and watch the dying days of ABS-CBN. FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano may end one day, after all.