Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday rejected a private lawyer’s request for nine senators to inhibit from the hearings tackling the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN citing their connections to the network.
Sotto was among the nine senators asked to inhibit as Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon alleged that the Senate President receives “fees and royalties” from ABS-CBN where his noontime show “Eat Bulaga” aired in the late 80’s.
“Eat Bulaga” now airs on rival network GMA 7.
“I am not financially interested in the business of ABS CBN. I am not a stockholder. I am part of the Congress that is mandated by the Constitution to grant franchises. I cannot shirk from my sworn duty,” Sotto told reporters in a text message.
“I suggest you listen to my interpellations before judging me,” Sotto also said.
Other senators who were asked to inhibit are:
– Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, whose wife Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos was a talent of ABS-CBN
– Sen. Sonny Angara, whose wife Tootsy Angara works in ABS-CBN
– Sen. Pia Cayetano, whose late father, former Sen. Rene Cayetano, hosted a television and radio show on ABS-CBN
– Sen. Lito Lapid, who used to act on ABS-CBN’s primetime show “Ang Probinsyano”
– Sen. Manny Pacquiao, whose boxing fights were aired on ABS-CBN
– Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, whose wife Sharon Cuneta is a talent of ABS-CBN
– Sen. Grace Poe, whose mother Susan Roces is part of the cast of ABS-CBN’s primetime show “Ang Probinsyano”
– Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., for allegedly receiving royalties for his movies aired on ABS-CBN
Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services which tackles franchises, has inhibited from proceedings since March.
Other senators who were asked to skip ABS-CBN-related hearings have yet to comment on the issue.
In March, Gadon filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to stop the House of Representatives from issuing a provisional authority for ABS-CBN. The high court has yet to rule on his petition.
Last year, ABS-CBN broke news about the Supreme Court’s decision to suspend Gadon as a lawyer for 3 months over his use of “abusive and intemperate language” which “lessen the confidence of the public in the Philippine judicial system.”
ABS-CBN also reported on the once-suspended lawyer’s failure to attend mandatory seminars for lawyers for 10 years.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Gadon’s request had “absolutely no (legal) basis.”
“Inhibition is a personal decision of each senator. No one can impose it, not even the Supreme Court,” Drilon said in a text message to reporters.
“We can only be disciplined, if their are ethical issues involved in our participation in the ABS-CBN franchise, by the Senate, and no one else. We are answerable only to the Senate and the people,” Drilon also said.
ABS-CBN stopped its broadcast operations earlier May after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order against network.
This is despite a “legislative tradition” that allows networks to operate beyond the expiration of their franchises while Congress has yet to finalize their renewal documents.
Sotto earlier said the Senate will grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year mandate after a February 2020 Senate hearing found that contrary to allegations, the company neither violated a Constitutional ban on foreign ownership nor did it skirt tax and broadcasting laws.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to pass on third reading a bill that would give ABS-CBN provisional authority to operate until October 2020 to give Congress more time to deliberate on its franchise renewal bid.
The franchise renewal has been pending in the House Committee on Legislative Franchises for several years./Stacy Ang