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Solon bares bribe attempt

I had a simple reply: My vote and my principle is not for sale,” he told reporters.

Keith A. Calayag

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Is lobby money going around to influence decision on the controversial ABS-CBN franchise renewal?

This surfaced yesterday as ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap claimed an alleged emissary of ABS-CBN attempted to bribe him P200 million so that he would vote for the granting of a 25-year franchise to the broadcast giant.

He disclosed the information to reporters even as he said that the same is not verified and he is not sure if the person who tried to offer him money is really from ABS-CBN.

“More than two weeks ago, somebody called me and identified himself as an emissary of ABS-CBN. He was persuading me to vote in favor of a franchise renewal in exchange for P200 million,” Yap said in the vernacular.

“I had a simple reply: My vote and my principle is not for sale,” he told reporters.

Yap said he kept his silence after that but lamented that he has read articles with unverified information and without credible sources in print and social media as to how lawmakers would vote on the ABS-CBN franchise.

“I did not make a big issue out of that call because I was not sure if the caller was really an ABS-CBN emissary. It would be unfair to the network and to the ongoing proceedings of the Joint Committee hearing the franchise issue,” he said.

Yap pointed out that he has heard of rumors that others were likewise offered bribes but chose not to disclose the information to media because the same is not verified.

He rued the fact that some journalists are reporting “unverified information” and writing stories without a “credible source.”

“Press freedom is alive but it is also the responsibility of our journalists to deliver the truth. I even read something that our panel members are being pressured to vote against ABS-CBN but offers no credible source,” he said.

Yap claimed press freedom is being abused and used for the interest of some.

“It’s just sad that some people are using the media for their own selfish interests. Please do not mislead the public. They deserve to know the truth,” Yap appealed.

Issues answered
With the franchise of network giant ABS-CBN still hanging in the balance, a lawmaker meantime disclosed that government agencies and supporters of a fresh license for ABS-CBN “answered fully” the issues against the network.

In a television interview, Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato urged her peers to vote on the franchise based on their conscience.

“All the issues… were answered fully. We believe that we stand on strong ground for the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise,” Sato said. “We are very, very confident that if the basis of decision would be constitutional law… then there is no doubt that we should vote for the grant of the franchise.”

The House franchise and good government committees will reconvene late Thursday to hear the summations of arguments for and against ABS-CBN’s franchise application, but it is not yet certain when lawmakers will vote on bills for the network’s license.

In the previous 12 Congress hearings, various government officials revealed allegations against the network concerning labor practices, taxes, pay-per-view services and supposed foreign ownership, among others.

A majority of the members present is required to advance the franchise application to the plenary and a defeat at the committee level ends ABS-CBN’s bid for a new 25-year franchise.
Sato stressed that the decision will be an “uphill battle.”

“We ourselves are also calling some of our friends, congressmen, if they can consider voting for the grant or renewal of ABS-CBN franchise. I believe the other side is also doing the same thing,” said Sato.

If the ABS-CBN application fails to pass the committee level, a lawmaker who voted “no” to the franchise can file a motion for reconsideration.

“They can change their mind and say I’ve read everything and I want us to reconsider our decision,” Sato said.

The National Telecommunications Commission can also “assign (ABS-CBN’s) frequency to another network,” said the lawmaker as she urged her colleagues to “look into our consciences [and] study the issue very well.”

“We are legally and morally bound by our oath of office to protect at all times the freedoms enshrined in our constitution,” Sato said.

“It will now be a fight or issue between a person who would really stand up for what is enshrined in our constitution as against those who would close their eyes to the very basic and very clear provisions of our constitution that would favor the grant of the franchise. It’s really up to the congressman himself, whether he would be on the right side of history or against it,” she added.

Solon withdraws
Meanwhile, Abang Lingkod Partylist Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano has withdrawn his co-authorship of a bill which grants ABS-CBN franchise.

Paduano, the second lawmaker to withdraw support of the network’s franchise renewal, announced his decision as one of the authors of House Bill 3713 during the hearing of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises and Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability on Thursday.

He apologized to the principal author of the bill, Parañaque Rep. Joy Myra Tambunting, to ABS-CBN CEO Carlo Katigbak and to the ABS-CBN family for his move.

Paduano cited ABS-CBN’s alleged biased reporting and alleged tax avoidance as among the reasons for his withdrawal.

“Legally, there is nothing wrong with Big Dipper. But it can be seen that ABS-CBN is using it to avoid taxes.”

Kabayan Partylist Rep. Ron Salo was the first to withdraw support of the bill.

“My partylist group deems that ABS-CBN failed to successfully rebutt the long list of alleged violations. Thus, this representation cannot anymore support the grant of a new franchise to ABS-CBN,” Salo said.

“I am also certain that it will just be a temporary setback to the majority of its employees as other networks and stations will readily accept the workforce that comes with proven talents and expertise,” he added.

with Elmer Manuel
@tribunephl_lmer

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