HOUSE Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday, February 20, explained that the best time to hold deliberations on the franchise renewal bid of media giant ABS-CBN is when there’s no overlap with other urgent priorities.

“What is the best timing? First, lahat ng pro at anti makapagsalita. Pangalawa, lahat ng gustong magsalita, magbigay ng comment, pabor man o hindi, marinig natin. Third, hindi matapakan yung ibang priorities natin na mas urgent (First, every pro and anti are given the chance to speak. Second, everyone who wants to speak, give comment, whether they are in favor or not, are heard. Third, priorities that are more urgent are not neglected),” he said in an interview in Iba, Zambales.

According to Cayetano, the best time would be in May or August.

“There are two options. It’ that in May, depende kung anong matapos namin in the next three weeks (depending on what we finish in the next three weeks). The longer option is right after SONA (State of the Nation Address),” he said.

With the lower chamber taking a break on March 15, Cayetano said he would rather have the hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise bills during a time when there won’t be any breaks.

“Hindi ito teleserye na magandang bitin. Kung maghi-hearing tayo ng dalawang linggo at kulang yang oras tapos magre-recess tayo o kahit hindi mag-recess o during recess mag-hearing, hindi mo naman maidadala sa plenaryo, walang mangyayari (This isn’t a soap opera where it’s better with a cliffhanger. If we’re going to have a hearing for two weeks and there isn’t enough time before the recess, or we don’t take a recess, or we have the hearing during the recess, you can’t take that to the plenary, nothing will happen),” he noted.

“Dito sa Kongeso, in my experience, mas mabuti na inumpisanahan natin tapusin na natin (Here in Congress, in my experience, it’s better that when we start something, we finish it),” Cayetano added.

Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian believed that ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal bills should be prioritized.

“Well, they should set that as a priority because its expiration is nearing, and it isn’t fair to say that it is not a priority because they know that the franchise has an expiration,” he said Thursday.

Currently, there are at least 11 bills that seek to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, but the House Committee on Legislative Franchises has yet to tackle any of them.

“The fairest [move] here is to have a hearing. If there are lapses, then let’s talk about it. If there is a need to revoke, then let’s talk about it. If there is a need for renewal, then let’s talk about it,” Gatchalian said.

“But if we won’t talk about it, no one’s moving, it’s just pending, then that’s not fair. Because ABS-CBN has owners and employees too, ABS-CBN also brings entertainment value,” he added.

‘Vote according to conscience’

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, for his part, urged fellow lawmakers to vote on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal according to their conscience.

“Once (the franchise renewal) reaches our office here at the Senate, I will decide. I’ve already said it: vote according to your conscience,” he said on Wednesday, February 19.

Go added that he would participate in the hearing by the Senate Committee on Public Services happening on February 24.

“Maybe, that’s the proper forum to hear both sides. We will listen to whomever wants to speak, whomever wants to complain… I might also ask some questions,” he said.

Go also urged the lower chamber to tackle the franchise renewal bill already.

“The longer we prolong the application, the hotter the issue becomes. Talk it among yourselves. That’s the process, anyway, and then send it here to the Senate and the president will decide, and let him approve it or exercise his veto power,” he said. 

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