Cayetano on ‘conscience vote’ in ABS-CBN franchise: ‘I cannot speak for parties’

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said on Monday afternoon, July 6, the House leadership would not be imposing on lawmakers how they should vote on bills seeking to grant a new franchise to broadcast network ABS-CBN.

This was the Speaker’s reply when asked by reporters, while the House hearing on ABS-CBN was ongoing, if he would insist on a party vote on the ABS-CBN franchise or allow legislators to decide on their own.

“Well, I cannot speak for the parties, kasi mag-uusap-usap din sila (because they still need to talk to each other). But from the start, we’ve been urging a conscience vote,” Cayetano said in a chance interview in Quezon City, where he distributed food donations in 4 districts.

“From the start, we’ve been saying, na kung ikaw ay pro, open mo ’yong mind mo do’n sa mga umaangal. Kung ikaw ay isang umaangal, open your mind sa sagot no’ng management. So that’s why we made the hearings public, so that the people can decide for themselves,” added the Taguig City-Pateros 1st District congressman.

(From the start, we’ve been saying, if you are pro, open your mind to those who are criticizing. If you are a critic, open your mind to the answers of the management. So that’s why we made the hearings public, so that the people can decide for themselves.)

Lawmakers traditionally vote according to what has been agreed upon by their political parties, with party leaders often inclined to follow the marching orders of the Speaker. But if Cayetano is to be believed, he and his allies would not be whipping votes in favor of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has long been issuing threats against ABS-CBN and warned its franchise would not be renewed.

“So this is one of the rare cases where representatives will decide for the people,” Cayetano said.

The Speaker himself has accused ABS-CBN of unfair coverage in the 2016 elections, where Cayetano ran but lost as Duterte's vice presidential candidate.

The network’s alleged biased reporting was the subject of the joint hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise on Monday, but Cayetano decided not to testify personally.

Instead, the Speaker submitted a written testimony on ABS-CBN’s alleged "partiality" and "favoritism" in its 2016 election coverage, which Cayetano said will be given to the network’s executives so they could reply to his allegations.

ABS-CBN is now applying for a new franchise after its previous one lapsed on May 4. Just a day later, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered the network to close its television and radio operations. The NTC later issued another cease and desist order to shut ABS-CBN’s Sky Direct and TV Plus channels. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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