Cayetano wishes all franchise bills get 'exhaustive' hearings like ABS-CBN

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 6) – House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said marathon hearings on bills granting a fresh franchise to ABS-CBN have been "open and transparent," noting it was good practice even for other companies seeking such a requirement from Congress.

"Ang assessment ko so far, very exhaustive ang discussion. (In) hindsight, sana lahat ng nag-apply ng franchise [ay] ganito kabusisi ang ginawa natin [My assessment is so far, the discussions have been very exhaustive. (In) hindsight, we should be this particular for all companies applying for a franchise]," Cayetano told reporters in an ambush interview Monday.

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There have been 12 hearings hosted jointly by two House committees so far meant to resolve the many issues lodged against the Kapamilya network as they seek for a fresh mandate to resume their broadcasts. The main operations of the media firm have been shut down since May 5 due to an expired franchise, which was followed by subsequent cease and desist orders against Lopez-owned Sky Direct cable service and the operations of ABS-CBN TV Plus programs via channel 43 in Metro Manila.

Cayetano said Monday's hearing, the last in the series, would tackle the supposed media bias of the station. He added that he will personally write to the network to demand an explanation about how they covered the 2016 presidential elections.

Just a week before the polls, Cayetano secured a temporary restraining order from a Taguig court stopping ABS-CBN from airing TV commercials against then presidential bet and now President Rodrigo Duterte, his running mate. The said ads were supposedly paid for by members of the opposition and were pointing out Duterte's undesirable qualities.

Had he not been a lawmaker and House Speaker, Cayetano said he would have personally brought up this issue during the hearing. He said today would have been the last inquiry, but will depend on how many House members have lined up to ask their questions.

"Ano bang ibig sabihin ng media bias? Kasi lahat ng politiko, kapag kinriticize niyo, sasabihin namin biased kayo against us, pero trabaho niyo to hold us accountable [What does media bias really mean? Because when you criticize all politicians, we will say you are biased against us but it is your job to hold us accountable]. Where is the line and when do we cross the line? It's a good discussion sa ating lahat," the Speaker said.

READ: Cayetano on calls for ABS-CBN franchise discussions: 'Hearing does not mean automatic renewal'

"I think after 12 hearings, naging malinaw ang mga issues sa tax, labor [tax and labor issues have been clarified]," Cayetano said. "Ang pinag-uusapan natin [What we are discussing is], if the media will use public airwaves to choose candidates na susuportahan o tatargetin [to support or to target] to be able to achieve certain objectives. These are allegations, so we have to hear all of the sides."

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Numerous bills granting a fresh license for the company to air on radio and free TV have been filed before the lower chamber since November 2016, but Cayetano earlier this year said lawmakers were “too busy” with more urgent measures. He then cited the lockdown measures and the succeeding expiration and legal opinion of the National Telecommunications Commission that pushed the network off the air for two months now.

Media and human rights groups said this was an effective curtailment of press freedom, robbing the public of a source of information amid the coronavirus crisis.