In this file photo from July 2017, Duterte gives his State of the Nation Address at the Batasan Pambansa complex in Quezon City. The House of the 18th Congress will elect its leaders in July.
File photo
ABS-CBN franchise renewal up to Congress, Palace insists
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - December 8, 2019 - 5:34pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Palace said on Sunday that broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corporation's franchise renewal is up to Congress despite President Rodrigo Duterte already saying he will see to it that the network will not get its franchise renewed.

"Unang-una, ang magde-decide diyan initially eh ang Kongreso. Hindi pa natin alam kung makakapasa sa Kongreso 'yun," presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in an interview with dzIQ.

(First and foremost, Congress will initially decide on it. We don't know yet if Congress will approve it.)

The Malacañang mouthpiece also denied that Duterte's ire for the media network is a political vendetta, emphasizing the separation of powers between the two branches. 

"Ang Kongreso naman hindi naman naaapektuhan sa sinasabi ng Presidente. Hindi mo ba napapansin, may sariling isip ang Kongreso," the spokesperson added.

(Congress is not affected by what the President says anyway. In case you haven't noticed, Congress has its own mind.)

Both chambers of Congress are dominated by administration allies and have readily voted in favor of the president's policy decisions, like the declaration and extension of martial law in Mindanao.

"Kung political vendetta iyan, eh di sana namatay na 'yung mga kalaban niya, mga naninira sa kanya. Ni isa wala nga siyang dine-demanda." 

(If it's a political vendetta, the President's enemies and critics would have been dead by now. But not a single one of them is even facing cases.)

Duterte's rants against media

Duterte has constantly singled out ABS-CBN, as well as media organizations including The Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler, for what he says is their insistence on publishing content that puts him in a bad light.

ABS-CBN in particular has received the worst of it, as the chief executive accused them of swindling him after they supposedly did not air his paid political advertisements while they aired anti-Duterte advertisements that were financed by his rivals instead.

After previously admitting he had "personal objections" towards the broadcast giant, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig), too, has assured the public that Congress would be fair when tackling the subject. 

"I reiterate that Congress would be fair. We'll always have a fair hearing. Alam naman 'to din ng management ng ABS-CBN na inuna namin 'yung budget at saka mga revenue bills," he told reporters earlier this week.

This came after both Cayetano, a Duterte ally himself, and Rep. Franz Alvarez (Palawan), who chairs the House committee on legislative franchises, disclosed that the House no longer intended to tackle the matter in 2019. 

READ: Cayetano: 'Congress will be fair' on ABS-CBN franchise renewal

Both House solons claimed that there was still sufficient time for hearings in 2020.

However, the congressional franchise bill will still have to be transmitted to the Senate. Even if Congress passes the bill,  the president may still veto it. 

ABS-CBN Corporation's legislative franchise expires on March 30, 2020. 

"Ang mga kalakaran ang magtutulak sa presidente kung aaprubahan niya o hindi. Maaaring ang kalakaran ngayon ay mababago sa kalakaran pagdating ng panahon," Panelo added. 

(The situation will let the President decide whether he will approve it or not. The situation today may change in the future.)

As early as 2016, media watchdogs have been saying that Duterte's tirades against the network were a clear sign of "congressional franchises [being used] as a weapon to control a free press."

ABS-CBN CORPORATION PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN SALVADOR PANELO
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