Lagman: Speaker Cayetano, House leaders to blame for ABS-CBN shutdown

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Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman (L) and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (R)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 6) – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano should carry the blame for sitting on bills renewing ABS-CBN's franchise, which led to the shutdown of the network and sent 11,000 people without work on Tuesday, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said.

"I don't think my colleagues should be blamed, I think it's the leadership who should take responsibility for what happened. This could have been averted if there was a seasonable enactment of the franchise," Lagman, a seasoned lawyer told CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday.

Pressed further, the seasoned lawyer said: "More particularly, the speaker of the House because the chairman was only deferring to what the speaker was saying." He was referring to Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.

TIMELINE: ABS-CBN franchise

ABS-CBN shut down its TV and radio broadcasts on Tuesday night upon receiving a cease and desist order from the National Telecommunications Commission that afternoon. The regulator told the Lopez-owned media giant to stop broadcasting following the expiry of its franchise last Monday.

Lagman said the reluctance of Cayetano and other House leaders to tackle numerous bills granting a fresh 25-year franchise to the TV network left NTC with no choice but to issue that order.

"I have been warning that there is no other solution to the problem of ABS-CBN except the granting of a franchise renewal," the solon said, adding that he agrees with the NTC's decision "with so much regret."

"The NTC will have to follow the law and jurisprudence... There is no gap in the law that's why equity should not apply," he added, contrary to earlier remarks made by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

Cayetano has not responded to requests for comment as of this writing.

In February, the Speaker said the House is still too busy with more pressing matters such as providing relief to families displaced by the Taal volcano eruption as well as by a series of strong earthquakes in Mindanao last year, leaving little time to discuss ABS-CBN franchise bills. He added that he will wait for cooler heads to prevail before discussing these proposals, as he was assured by NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba's March 10 commitment that the regulator will grant a provisional authority to the network following requests made by both the House and the Senate.

'Charade'

Lagman, however, said the House might have been reluctant to pass the bill due to President Rodrigo Duterte's ire against the network, which dates back to the 2016 campaign season.

"This is a lesson for the House of Representatives that it should exercise its constitutional powers independently and without succumbing to the intervention of the President," he said, citing Duterte's earlier remarks that he will block moves to grant a fresh franchise to the media company.

"This was subsequently withdrawn in a way when he accepted the explanation and apology of the executives of ABS-CBN. That could have been the go signal for the House to proceed – unless that was part of a charade in order to close ABS-CBN for ulterior motives," Lagman added.

READ: Duterte accepts ABS-CBN apology, silent on franchise support

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has since said that Duterte will be "neutral" on the issue and will simply follow what the NTC decides to do.

As a rule, all franchise bills must first be passed by the House before it can be approved by the Senate. Once passed, it will be up for Duterte's decision whether to veto, sign into a law, or let it lapse into a law.

RELATED: Cayetano hits Senate hearing, says politicians only want to curry favor with ABS-CBN

There are 12 House bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise, while two other resolutions sought to extend its existing mandate until 2022 pending the approval of a long-term franchise.