Senators counter Cayetano: Probe on ABS-CBN franchise case won’t violate Constitution

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21)— Contrary to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s claim, senators on Friday maintained the upper chamber’s scheduled probe into ABS-CBN’s controversial franchise renewal case will not violate the Constitution.

“Not at all (violating the Constitution),” Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said in a message to reporters.

“Besides, the hearing is focused on the resolutions filed (on) ABS-CBN, not whether we should approve its franchise or not,” he added of the inquiry, which will take place on Monday.

RELATED: Poe asks Senate probe on ABS-CBN franchise issues

Sotto added that a panel hearing does not necessarily represent the Senate, noting that committee chairpersons “are authorized to hear what their committee thinks should be heard.”

Senator Francis Pangilinan shared the sentiment, saying such hearing is “consistent with the law and parliamentary practice.”

“Holding parallel hearings in the Senate on bills that should emanate from the House of Representatives such as the budget bill, tax bills or franchise measures is standard parliamentary practice for decades now,” he said.

Cayetano, in a chance interview Thursday, hit the Senate for prioritizing the ABS-CBN franchise renewal bills, instead of past measures including charter change.

“Kapag cha-cha pinag-usapan, ayaw nila; ‘wag daw muna pag-usapan, pero they feel free to violate the Constitution. Ano ba sabi sa Constitution? Saan ba mag-uumpisa ang prangkisa? Sa House o sa Senate?” Cayetano told reporters.

[Translation: They don’t want to talk about charter change yet. But (with ABS-CBN), they feel free to violate the Constitution. What does the Constitution say? Where does the franchise come from? The House or the Senate?]

Senator Risa Hontiveros also refuted Cayetano’s first claim, stressing the upper chamber had conducted its own hearings on the constitutional reform measures.

A total of eleven bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s legal mandate remain pending before the House of Representatives, while a counterpart measure has also yet to pass the Senate’s committee level

But as the Senate’s investigation looms, the lower chamber has yet to calendar discussions on the matter. Cayetano said lawmakers are “too busy” with more urgent measures pending on the table.