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House adjourns session to avoid debating on ABS-CBN franchise controversy

By Ben Rosario

In a rare move, the leadership of the House of Representatives decided on an abrupt adjournment of the scheduled plenary session on Tuesday reportedly to avoid making the ABS-CBN legislative franchise controversy the center of an unwanted floor debate.

House of the Representatives (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)

House of the Representatives (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)

Deputy Speaker and Misamis Oriental Rep. Henry Oaminal declared that the “open-close” session was agreed upon because of the absence of the majority of women legislators who were attending a meeting at the Sofitel Hotel in Manila.

However, Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza readily took the blame and credit for the failure of the Lower Chamber to conduct business.

Requesting anonymity, a senior member agreed with Atienza’s claim, saying the absence of the lady legislators was a flimsy reason not to hold session.

Atienza vowed to continue demanding for quorum attendance until Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano or the House committee on legislative franchises finally agrees to call for a public hearing that will take up the nine pending bills calling for a 25-year extension of the ABS-CBN franchise and two other measures for its sister corporations, Sky Cable and ABS-CBN Convergence Inc.

“What are they afraid of? Why not let the hearings take place, anyway all these bills will be voted upon and a majority is needed for approval,” he said.

On Monday, Atienza rose to deliver a privilege speech lambasting the “stubborn refusal” of the Lower House to give the ABS-CBN management its day in court.

He said Cayetano should direct the 46-member legislative franchises committee to convene at once in order to deliberate on the bills seeking to extend the franchise by another 25 years.

The legislative franchises panel has been conducting congressional hearings for franchise applicants that do not carry the name “ABS-CBN” in the title.

Meanwhile, House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate on Tuesday assailed the alleged “move to shut down ABS-CBN with a quo warranto case, coupled with the inaction of Congress to tackle the network’s franchise.”

The opposition lawmaker said the twin moves were clearly part of “the ongoing crackdown on dissent that further shrinks the already constricted democratic space, it is a legacy of repression that the Duterte administration will be leaving when it exits in 2022.”

Zarate recalled that the ABS-CBN closure had previous precedents under the current government.

“First they targeted the Inquirer, then Rappler, now ABS-CBN. In the past years they jailed Sen. Leila de Lima, launched Oplan Tokhang that killed thousands, attacked bishops, lawyers, and activists with Executive Order 70 and Memo 32,” lamented Zarate.

He asked: “The question now is, who is next?”

Read more: SolGen files quo warranto petition vs. ABS CBN

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