‘There will be a reckoning’: Cayetano blames SolGen, NTC for ABS-CBN closure

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 8) — House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday finally broke his silence on the expiration of ABS-CBN Corporation's legislative franchise and subsequent closure of the country's biggest broadcasting network, pinning the blame on the National Telecommunications Commission and Solicitor General Jose Calida.

He vowed that NTC will face consequences for reneging on its promise under oath to give a temporary operating permit to ABS-CBN after the lawmakers at the House of Representatives failed to issue a fresh 25-year franchise before its expiration on May 4.

Cayetano, a close ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, also slammed Solicitor General Jose Calida for interfering in the issue — prompting the NTC to order ABS-CBN to go off air on May 5.

“Last Tuesday we were all ambushed by the NTC. The NTC appears to have succumbed to pressure from the Solicitor General, and issued a cease and desist order to ABS-CBN,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

He warned, “As for the sudden flip-flopping of the NTC and the unconstitutional meddling by the Solicitor General in the business of Congress, I promise you — there will be a reckoning.”

Related: Calida pins blame on Congress, says NTC only followed law in shutting ABS-CBN

Numerous bills have been filed in the House since November 2016 to extend ABS-CBN’s franchise to continue airing on radio and free TV. Under the leadership of Cayetano, these have been set aside by the "too busy" 18th Congress as the country faced the Taal volcano eruption in January. The House leader was also criticized for relaunching an exhibit for late NBA star Kobe Bryant in February amid please for the House to tackle ABS-CBN's franchise leading up to its expiry. The COVID-19 crisis also hit the country as the franchise neared expiration.

With several bills languishing in the House, Cayetano and House panel on Legislative Franchises Chairman Rep. Franz Alvarez issued a resolution urging NTC commissioners to grant the network a provisional permit. But instead of holding its promise to issue a provisional authority, NTC issued a cease and desist order on May 5.

Related: ABS-CBN asks Supreme Court to stop shutdown order 

Cayetano admitted that although the NTC order “unnecessarily complicated” the issue, he understands that the Constitutional authority to grant, deny, extend, revoke, or modify broadcast franchises only falls on the hands of the Congress.

He said the legislative franchises committee will deliberate bills for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, but he did not give a definite timeline on when it will start and be completed.

“This Congress has no choice but to once again rise to the occasion and fix the mess others make. To our critics, in and outside of the House, you are free to say what you will. As we are free to respond in our own way,” he added.

Rep. Edcel Lagman said Cayetano is to blame for the ABS-CBN shutdown because he "blindly kowtowed" to President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated personal opposition to the renewal, which unduly stalled the approval of the extension.

"It is utterly pretentious for Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to say that the passage of the franchise renewal will now be prioritized in order to 'fix the mess' which others made... Cayetano must not wash his hands and absolve himself of blame at the expense of others. Admitting one’s fault is an earmark of true leadership," he said in a statement. 

Duterte is unlikely to veto the ABS-CBN franchise renewal bill should Congress pass it, his spokesman said.