'Sorry for offending': ABS-CBN does not have own political agenda, CEO says

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
'Sorry for offending': ABS-CBN does not have own political agenda, CEO says
ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Lopez Katigbak attends the Senate inquiry on the compliance of the broadcast network's compliance with the terms and conditions of its franchise.
The STAR / Mong Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2;  3:21 p.m.) — Amid a quo warranto petition aimed at revoking the already-expiring franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corporation, the company's CEO on Monday apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte for offending the chief executive in the past. 

ABS-CBN CEO Carlo Katigbak, however, was careful to point out that all of Duterte's national advertisements, amounting to P117 million in worth, were aired.

The president's ire for the media company can be traced back to his comments on these advertisements during his electoral campaign in 2016, after which Duterte had been quoted as saying that the network swindled him. 

Among Duterte's complaints for the network was their decision to air unflattering political advertisements paid for by his rivals while not airing his own paid political advertisements. 

But at Monday's Senate hearing on the media company's legislative franchise, Katigbak disclosed the check issued by ABS-CBN refunding P2.6 million in unaired political ads paid for by the Duterte campaign, which he said was one of the sources of Duterte’s anger towards the company. 

"We're sorry if we offended the president, that was not the intention of the network," Katigbak told the Senate panel.

"[ABS-CBN] does not and will not have its own political agenda."

'We're sorry for offending the president'

Katigbak also explained that during the campaign period for the May 2016 general elections, the network offered "two kinds of political ads sold to candidates" which included both national ads and local ads. 

According to the ABS-CBN CEO, the full 117 minutes of Duterte's ads ordered for national airing were indeed accommodated and aired. It was only the local ads that were not fully accommodated because of what he said was the low allocation for minutes. 

But Katigbak pointed out that "lawful election propaganda includes propaganda for or against a candidacy," and thus, the company's internal committee approved its airing. 

The Omnibus Election Code recognizes that an "election campaign" is "an act designed to promote the election or defeat of a particular candidate or candidates to a public office" and includes "publishing or distributing campaign literature or materials designed to support or oppose the election of any candidate."

The Fair Elections Act, meanwhile, holds that "[e]lection propaganda whether on television, cable television, radio, newspapers or any other medium is hereby allowed for all registered political parties, national, regional, sectoral parties or organizations participating under the party-list elections and for all bona fide candidates seeking national and local elective positions."

It, and the Omnibus Election Code that it cites, include as lawful election propaganda "paid advertisements in print or broadcast media" as well as "handwritten or printed letters urging voters to vote for or against any particular political party or candidate for public office."

Katigbak said that "we were required not to discriminate against any candidate."

"Any candidate who comes to our station with an ad that is allowed, we will accommodate."

Duterte had explicitly said that he will see to it that ABS-CBN's franchise will not be extended, although the Palace had also said that the president, whose words often translate into policy, will not meddle in the affairs of Congress.

Furthermore, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told the public not to take these words literally. 

Despite these caveats, Duterte has constantly singled out ABS-CBN along with other media organizations including The Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler, for what he says is their content that puts him in a bad light.

Palace: Accepting ABS-CBN apology up to Duterte

It would be up to Duterte to decide whether or not to accept the network's apology for failing to air his campaign commercials in 2016, Malacañang said Monday.

"It has been a while since it (failure to air the commercial) happened. They only apologized after they were lambasted. It's up to the president. I don't know how to respond to that. It's a personal decision," presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing when asked whether Duterte would accept the broadcast giant's apology.

"Dapat noon pa nila ginawa (They should have done that before)," he added.

Panelo, nevertheless, said he was "glad" that ABS-CBN finally "admitted its shortcomings to the President."

"That's what the president has been saying. You know you did something wrong... Did you do anything about it? None. That's what he called hubris. You are too arrogant," the Palace spokesman said.

Drilon: Violation of the freedom of the press

Malacañang has denied that Duterte's ire for the media network was connected to any political vendetta, emphasizing the separation of powers between the two branches. But both chambers of Congress are dominated by administration allies and have historically voted favorably towards the president's decisions.

"All the president wants is fair reporting. Kung masama ka sa pangulo, mas magiging masama siya sa'yo (If you are bad towards the president, he will treat you worse)," Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, former presidential aide and de facto spokesperson, said in the same Senate hearing.

In an earlier interview with ANC's Headstart, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asserted that the issue was also one of press freedom. 

"Inevitably freedom of the press will be involved, because in our mind, the cancellation of the franchise is not based on Constitutional issues but on something else," Drilon said, although he did not specify what exactly this was. 

"Certainly, editorial content is not a ground for cancelling the franchise, because that smacks of violation of the freedom of the press and it can be even viewed as a prior restraint which is violative of the freedom of speech." — with a report from The STAR/Alexis Romero

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 23, 2023 - 1:36pm

ABS-CBN Corp. stopped broadcasting on its TV and radio stations on May 5, 2020 after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order. The network's franchise had lapsed on May 4 without action by the House of Representatives.

May 23, 2023 - 1:36pm

ABS-CBN announces that it will cease operations of TeleRadyo, which has been in the red since 2020, by June 30.

August 11, 2022 - 9:37am

In a disclosure, ABS confirms signing of deal that sees the broadcast giant enter into a joint venture with MVP's TV5. — Ramon Royandoyan


January 27, 2021 - 3:35pm

Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan Party-list) attempts to put the ABS-CBN franchise up for a vote in the plenary, saying it should be taken up as it is in the House's unfinished business.

The House rejects his motion, but he appeals this. House leaders later on commit to begin tackling its unfinished business beginning Monday. —  Xave Gregorio

January 18, 2021 - 3:38pm

Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas) has filed a bill seeking the renewal of the franchise granted to broadcast giant ABS-CBN.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier filed a similar bill at the Senate, saying a majority of Filipinos get their news primarily from TV. 

Franchise bills emanate from the House of Representatives.

January 5, 2021 - 8:00pm

Malacañang is leaving it up to Congress to decide on the new bill seeking to renew the franchise of television network ABS-CBN, which was forced to lay off thousands of workers after its franchise expired last May. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque disagreed, saying the fate of the bill depends on lawmakers. 

"Well, again, I beg to differ; that is a sole constitutional prerogative of Congress which must originate from the House of Representatives," Roque says at a press briefing. —  Alexis Romero

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