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Cayetano wants ‘conscience’ vote among House members on ABS-CBN franchise issue

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday said he does not want to influence members of the House of Representatives on how they will decide on the ABS-CBN franchise issue, saying that he is promoting a "conscience" vote on the matter.

In an ambush interview, Cayetano reiterated that the ongoing House joint panel hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise issue will be open, transparent and fair.

He opted not to testify in Monday's hearing, which tackles alleged biased reportage of ABS-CBN, even as he himself has an issue with the supposed unfair coverage of the network during the 2016 elections, so as not to influence the parties involved.

"So, I don’t want to sway members of Congress one way or the other. ‘Yung conscience ay napakaimportante sa boto," he said.

"I cannot speak for the parties, kasi mag-uusap-usap din sila, but from the start, we’ve been urging a conscience vote. From the start we’ve been saying na kung ikaw ay pro, open mo ‘yung mind mo dun sa mga umaangal. Kung ikaw ay isa umaangal, open your mind sa sagot nung management," he added.

During the hearing, House good government panel chair Jonathan Sy-Alvarado said Cayetano submitted his written statement to the joint committees to air his side regarding the alleged bias, partiality and favoritism in the network during the 2016 elections.

Cayetano, the running-mate of President Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 elections, earlier revealed the "unfair airtime" issue he personally experienced with ABS-CBN during that campaign period.

"Pinili ng ating Speaker na hindi na personal na tumestigo o magtanong sa ABS-CBN upang sa gayon ay mapanitili natin ang pagiging patas sa pagdinig na ito at upang hindi na maimpluwensyahan ang lahat ng partido na may kinalaman sa isyung ito lalong-lalo na ang members ng joint committee," Sy-Alvarado said.

The House Committee on Legislative Franchises and on Good Government and Public Accountability began hearing the bills granting another 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN after the House leadership decided to drop the measure that would supposedly give the network a provisional franchise until October 31, 2020.

Cayetano, himself an author of the provisional franchise bill, has said the issue on the ABS-CBN franchise has already become "so divisive" and is taking up the time even as there are more pressing matters to discuss such as that of COVID-19 response measures.

But he said he would rather leave it to the public to decide if the hearings they held were fair, but he believes they were open and transparent.

"Yung fairness, for me, is not decided by sino mas maingay. Meaning, ‘pag mas maingay ‘yung pro, sasabihin nung mga anti, hindi fair; ‘pag mas pumupunto ‘yung mga anti, sasabihin nung pro, hindi fair," he said.

"But fairness is really a product of an open mind and allowing both sides to speak," he added.

The House joint panel is expected to wrap up this week its hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise issue. Afterwards, its members will vote whether or not to approve the bills seeking to grant another 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN, and they will send it to the plenary for its own deliberation and approval. — BM, GMA News