‘Protect the prerogative’: Congress urged to act independently amid ‘pressure’ from Duterte-ABS-CBN rift

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 13)— An opposition lawmaker on Thursday called on fellow members of the House of Representatives to “protect their prerogative” and act independently— amid the controversial clash between President Rodrigo Duterte and media giant ABS-CBN.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the President’s remarks— which include threats against the network’s franchise renewal— intrude into the jurisdiction of the legislative branch.

“First, it is an intrusion to the sole jurisdiction of the Congress— more particularly the committee on legislative franchises to recommend or not to recommend the renewal of an existing franchise,” Lagman told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

“If it's a personal opinion, the Congress should be able to act on its jurisdiction and protect its prerogative,” he noted.

Duterte has repeatedly slammed ABS-CBN, saying the network will definitely be “out” this year— with its franchise set to expire on March 30. In another speech, he even suggested for the network executives to just sell the company.

AKO-BICOL Rep. Alfredo Garbin, meanwhile, admitted some of his colleagues at the lower chamber— which is set to tackle 11 pending measures on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal— felt pressure from the chief executive’s pronouncements.

’Di ako magtatanggi, merong na-pressure (I won’t lie, there were some who got pressured),” Garbin, member of the legislative franchises panel, said in the same interview.

Pero despite the pronouncement of the President, I still signed the resolution and co-authored the bill because it's the right thing to do… for an association to be given their chance in their proceedings, para patunayan nila na sila ay karapat dapat na ma-renew,” he added.

[Translation: But despite the pronouncement of the President, I still signed the resolution and co-authored the bill because it’s the right thing to do, for the association to be given their chance in their proceedings, so they can prove that they are worthy to be renewed.]

Isabela Rep. Antonio Albano Jr., vice chair of the panel, earlier clarified Duterte did not “directly” pressure the congressmen, despite the latter's “statements of displeasure” against the network. Duterte's remarks reportedly stemmed from ABS-CBN's alleged failure to run his campaign advertisements during the 2016 elections.

Malacañang also earlier denied claims of intrusion, saying Duterte will not interfere with duties of the Congress.

The franchise renewal case was highlighted anew following a petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, who sought to nullify the company’s existing franchise.

Calida cited the network's alleged "highly abusive practices," including foreign ownership and operational issues— claims that ABS-CBN itself has debunked.

The House has yet to calendar a hearing on the franchise renewal bills, but Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano vowed fair proceedings will be observed.