With the speed that some bills and budgets got passed, it’s really a wonder why the House of Representatives under the leadership of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is subjecting ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise renewal to a form of red tapism.
As I pointed out in previous posts on the topic of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise renewal, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises could have begun hearings on the 11 bills pending before since last year and avoided the “artificial” 11th hour proceedings that we saw this afternoon.
And what did we witness this afternoon?
We saw our congressmen deliberating over committee rules as if THIS were the first time that the House Committee on Legislative Franchises were tackling the granting of the very first ever TV network legislative franchise.
Even more jarring was the motion to divide participating congressmen in the hearing into those opposed to ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal and those for it.
Deputy Speaker South Cotabato Representative Ferdinand L. Hernandez’ interjection in the midst of the bickering over the minutiae of House Rules seemed to settle the discussion in favor of the more established minority-majortity-independent grouping of congressman participants in the hearing.
Hernandez was right in reminding the more polarized members of the House of Representatives that not all members of the house had chosen a side on the issue.
In fact, because the House Committee on Legislative Franchise Chairman’s move to bar sponsorship speeches of those for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, in my opinion deprived everyone of a chance to hear the merits of proposed franchise renewal.
Perhaps because I am more tuned in to the social media feeds of avid supporters of the Duterte Administration, I am more aware of the allegations against ABS-CBN and the reasons for not renewing their legislative franchise.
From where I am, I would have liked to have heard the proponents of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise renewal at the very start of the hearing.
In fact, this would have helped the House of Representatives do away with the image it is building up as the stamp pad for the Executive Branch.
The thing that worries me about what transpired at the House hearing on ABS-CBN today was the proposal for an open ended provisional authority to operate from the NTC.
If one wanted to keep ABS-CBN on a short leash, such a provisional authority would not only be a short leash but a choker and muzzle.
With no clear rules and procedures on the administration of this provisional authority from the NTC, this may be giving the body a carte blanche and who knows what reason or unreason could lead to the closure of ABS-CBN.
In such a situation, it might as well be a form of censorship and in that vein, further legitimizes the view of a case of a curtailment of the freedom of the press.
If the biggest broadcast network can be made to kneel and kowtow to the government, I doubt lesser broadcast networks and media companies can resist.
If press freedom is only for those voices that pleases the ears of the powers that be, then we have surely lost it and never deserved it in the first place.
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