WHEN asked during an ambush interview how he would vote when the matter of the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise reaches the Upper House, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said that he would “vote according to conscience”.
“Once it reaches our office here in the Senate, I will decide. Nasabi ko na ‘yan. Vote according to your conscience,” Go responded, adding that his conscience is in accordance with the best interests of the Filipino people.
ABS-CBN faces an uncertain future as its current authority to broadcast is in question after Solicitor General Jose Calida filed in the Supreme Court a quo warranto petition against the network, saying that it committed two grave violations of its existing franchise.
As for the inquiry being pushed in the Senate on the network’s franchise renewal, Go mentioned that he will participate, saying “Ito namang pagdinig (sa Senado), maaaring in aid of legislation, marami silang gustong pakinggan, maybe that’s the proper forum na mapakinggan both sides. Pakinggan natin sino gusto magsalita, sino gusto magreklamo... I might also ask some questions.”
Go stressed, however, that any legislative action regarding franchise bills must emanate from the Lower House of Congress, according to the law.
“If the Senate decides to start the discussions to look into compliance of ABS-CBN with their existing franchise... or to consider possible extension, I will participate to clear any pressing issues and I can assure the public that I will be fair and impartial,” he added.
Go also said that it is up to the Lower House of Congress how they would act on the pending franchise bill.
“Franchise renewal, it will emanate from the Lower House so dapat na rin nilang i-tackle ito. Sa congressmen, just vote according to your conscience, hopefully it is for the interest of the Filipino people,” he said.
“Mas lalo natin pinapatagal, mas lalong umiinit ang isyu, pag usapan n’yo. Ito naman ang proseso, pag-usapan nyo, then papadala dito sa Senado (kung pumasa sa House), then the President will decide,” Go added.
Asked if the Senate has enough time to conduct such inquiry given that the network’s franchise is set to expire on March 31, Go responded, “I cannot answer that because malapit naman rin po...”
He added, “It is a legal question again kung pwede ba silang mag-operate pagkatapos ng kanilang franchise expiration. ‘Yun ang mga katanungan na legal issues na dapat sagutin ng National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) or ng Department of Justice (DOJ).”
As for the provisional authority being pushed to allow ABS-CBN to operate beyond the expiry date of its franchise, Go said “Usually, kasi kapag dinidinig pa ‘yung franchise renewal ay hinahayaan na lang po nila na mag-continue sa pag-operate.”
Go added that these are the questions that the NTC and DOJ can answer during a Senate hearing.
“Itong maraming questions, dapat sagutin ito ng DOJ para malinawan po ang lahat. And maybe, ‘yung hearing po ng Senado, mapakinggan natin yung DOJ, mapakinggan din natin ang NTC,” he said.
Go also said that Calida may also be invited to attend and speak in the hearing.
“Kung sakaling gustong pumunta ni Solicitor General Calida ay pwede rin siyang magsalita,” he said.
Meanwhile, Go questioned the joint resolution filed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon seeking to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN up to the end of 2022.
Go asked “Bakit joint resolution? Bakit hindi na lang natin aprubahan o disapubahan (ang renewal ng franchise)? Bakit December 31, 2022, meron bang pulitika dito?”
He added, “Tanong ko nga, pareho naman. A joint resolution extending the franchise of ABS-CBN until December 2022 is, in effect, amending the existing franchise law which provides for a term of 25 years. Thus, the move to use joint resolution... para sa akin, personally, as a senator, isang boto lang naman po ako. It’s either we approve or we deny or reject.”
Ending the interview, Go assured the public that President Rodrigo Duterte is always fair and balanced with his judgments.
“Ako naman, knowing the President, he is a fair person naman po. Babalansehin n’ya po ang lahat,” he said, adding that the President does not meddle with the affairs of the legislative branch.
“Vocal sya sa kanyang sama ng loob pero wala siya inuutos kahit kanino, ako bilang close to him, parati nya sinasabi na vote according to your conscience at unahin ang interes ng Pilipino,” he said.
“Ako naman ayokong may mawalan ng trabaho, lahat ng Pilipino ay gusto natin magkaroon ng opportunity na mabuhay at ayaw natin may magutom,” he also stressed.