A lawmaker on Wednesday doused cold water on the reports Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is facing ouster as a result of the controversy involving the renewal of the franchise of the ABS-CBN network.
“This is the first time I’ve heard about this rumor. There is no coup against the Speaker,” Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar, who belongs to the opposition Liberal Party, said in a television interview.
“I should know because I am always there [in the House of Representatives].”
Del Mar was asked about the speculations that some congressmen dissatisfied with Cayetano’s stance on the issue of ABS-CBN’s franchise might move against him.
Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the public services committee that heard the case, said Monday’s Senate hearing strengthened the people’s clamor for the House to do its job―and because it revealed truths that had been obfuscated by people with vested interests and a propensity to abuse their power.
“There is no longer any reason for the House of Representatives to sit on this matter, Poe said.
“Doing so would be a violation of the trust that had been given to them by their constituents.’’
There are 11 bills in the House pushing for the renewal of the network’s franchise, but the House of Representatives led by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano appeared hell-bent on sitting on the measures.
Earlier this month, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court seeking to invalidate the franchise of ABS-CBN over its supposed violations of its terms.
No less than Vice President Leni Robredo has called Calida’s move an abuse of power.
On Monday’s Senate hearing, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Telecommunications Commission said ABS-CBN had committed no violations whatsoever.
While Calida has repeatedly insisted that President Duterte had no hand in his move, the latter had, on many occasions, threatened the network of closure for its failure to air his campaign advertisements during the 2016 elections. The network is also perceived to be critical of the administration’s policies.
On Monday’s hearing, Carlo Lopez Katigbak, ABS-CBN president and CEO, said it was not the network’s intention not to air the ads and in fact refunded the Duterte camp in the amount of P4 million.
A subsequent P2.6-million refund was refused by the President’s campaign.
Katigbak, joined by ABS-CBN chairman Martin Lopez and Chief operating officer Maria Socorro Vidanes, apologized to the President for offending him. They assured him it was not the network’s intention to hurt his feelings.
Cayetano has repeatedly said the House would hear the bills seeking to renew the franchise at the appropriate time when the emotions die down, and that the process would be sober, fair and impartial.
He said the network’s franchise was not only an issue on press freedom but on accountability as well.
Del Mar said he expected Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to respect the term-sharing agreement that Duterte had brokered between the two before the House elected Cayetano as Speaker in July last year.
He said Velasco and his group should not seek the speaker’s ouster and should just wait for their time under the agreement.
Under the term-sharing arrangement, Cayetano would lead the House for 15 months up to October this year. Velasco would serve the remaining 21 months of the Speaker’s three-year term of office.
Velasco belongs to the administration PDP-Laban party, which is gradually losing members in the House to other political groups.
PDP-Laban leaders have denied reports they are moving against Cayetano.
The Speaker himself has addressed the coup rumors.
He says the replacement of the top leader of the House takes place in plenary through a vote of no confidence and the election of his replacement.
He says he is ready to relinquish his post the moment the majority of his colleagues tell him he no longer has their support.
He said some House members might not like his leadership style, but “this is how I know to do my job.”