Employees of local broadcast giant ABS-CBN holding placards ask motorists to hink their cars during a protest in front of ABS-CBN building in Manila last Friday, February 14, 2020. | Philstar.com photo

LAWMAKERS have no business being members of Congress if they are influenced by the actions or statements of President Rodrigo Duterte, according to the presidential spokesperson.

“You are there precisely because of the oath you have taken to enact laws, to investigate in aid of legislation — nothing more, nothing less,” said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Friday, February 21.

He also stressed that Duterte’s previous threats to close the network giant ABS-CBN after its supposed failure to air a paid campaign ad before the 2016 presidential elections should not be taken literally.

“That has nothing to do with granting or rejecting the franchise because that is the job of Congress,” Panelo said. “Whatever your job is under the constitution, do it.”

“Why does the Speaker have to take a cue from Malacañang? Why do members of Congress have to wait for what the president will say about anything?” he added. 

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano previously said holding congressional hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise is “not that urgent.” He also said Thursday, February 20 that the best time to hold the hearings is in May or August, after Duterte’s State of the Nation Address.

On February 10, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a petition before the Supreme Court for the cancellation of ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise

Panelo noted that Calida acted “on his own” when he sought to invalidate the network’s license to operate before the SC.

“Under the constitution, may kaniya-kaniya kaming trabaho (we have our own jobs)… The President does not interfere with that. We are given a free hand,” he said. 

“Ever since, Calida is on his own. Ganoon din naman ang character n’yan (That’s his character),” he added. 

Panelo also said that the Palace will follow whatever Congress or the Supreme Court says.

“Kami’y nanood lang (we’re just watching),” he said. 

In Calida’s petition, he alleged that ABS-CBN reportedly violated rules set by Congress.

“We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers. These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years,” he said in a statement.

ABS-CBN, for its part, maintained that it has complied with all the laws governing its franchise and secured all government and regulatory approvals for its operations. 

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