House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr pushed for the abolition of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) after the agency ordered the closure of media network ABS-CBN.
But the portions about the embattled media giant in the Manila 6th District congressman’s privilege speech on Wednesday, May 6, will not appear in the official House records after the plenary agreed to delete these.
Section 102 of the House rules states the presiding officer may declare a member delivering a privilege speech out of order if he or she discusses a topic “principally and directly related” to an issue still pending at the committee level.
The bills that would have renewed the now-expired ABS-CBN franchise remain pending with the House committee on legislative franchises.
In his speech, Abante said NTC insulted lawmakers by committing before them in March that it would grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate, only to order the closure of the network’s television and radio operations roughly two months later. (READ: ABS-CBN goes off-air after NTC order)
“Ang ginawang ito ng NTC ay hindi maaaring palampasin ng Kongreso (Congress should not let NTC get away with this act). This is an open defiance and an insult to Congress,” said Abante, who delivered his speech within the halls of Batansang Pambansa as a majority of his colleagues watched through teleconferencing app Zoom.
“The NTC should be abolished and its functions and powers be transferred to the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) where it can be better exercised and hopefully be more responsive to the needs of our changing times,” Abante said.
NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba earlier told the House committee on legislative franchises that the NTC would “most likely” give ABS-CBN a temporary permit to operate while Congress is yet to vote on the renewal of its franchise.
But on Tuesday, May 5, NTC instead ordered ABS-CBN to shut down.
The House Minority Leader said his concern is not so much on ABS-CBN itself, but more on making sure Congress would not allow an inept agency to disregard lawmakers.
“I don’t care about ABS-CBN; it can be another network. Hayagang binastos at binalewala ng NTC ang Kongreso at Senado! Papayag ba tayo na mabalewala ng isang ahensya ng pamalaan na puro kapalpakan lamang ang ginagawa?” said Abante.
(I don’t care about ABS-CBN; it can be another network. But NTC blatantly insulted and disregarded the House and the Senate! Are we going to allow a government agency that does nothing but incompetence to do this to us?)
The Minority Leader also slammed NTC for failing to penalize telecommunication companies like PLDT, Globe, and Smart despite consumers’ repeated complaints about poor services.
“Our National Telecommunications Commission, supposedly in charge of regulating and promoting the telecommunications industry has turned out to be one of the most inept and useless agencies whose only relevance lies in being another model for sheer wastage of taxpayer money,” Abante said.
As Abante’s speech ended, however, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Crispin Remulla invoked Section 102 of the House rules.
“I move to strike out all the remarks that have to do with ABS-CBN because it is clear it will not be discussed in plenary today since the rules prohibit the discussion of ABS-CBN since it’s already pending in committee,” Remulla said.
Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu accepted Remulla’s motion after no other legislator opposed Remulla’s motion, including Abante himself.
Still, Abante's staff sent reporters a copy of his speech as he delivered it in the plenary.
Several disgruntled congressmen already said Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is to be blamed for the closure of ABS-CBN, after the latter refused to prioritize the passage of bills seeking ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.