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
'Sorry for offending': ABS-CBN does not have own political agenda, CEO says
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - February 24, 2020 - 2:32pm

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

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: March 5, 2020 - 11:42am

President Duterte threatens not to renew ABS-CBN's franchise, his latest in what critics call a string of verbal attacks against dissenting media.

March 5, 2020 - 11:42am

Labor unions with Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino will march to the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City on Friday, March 6, in a show of solidarity with the network's employees and talents, BMP says in a release.

Among those marching will be union members from St. Luke’s Medical Center Bonifacio Global City and University of Santo Tomas Hospital, who BMP says "will extend their support and called on the Duterte administration to protect the workers facing job insecurity."

BMP "calls on workers to unite against the threat of unemployment as it may lead to desperate and futile actions such as the hostage-taking by former security guard Alchie Paray, which could only amplify the sorry plight of contractual workers but would not put an end to the anti-labor scourge of contractualization."

March 4, 2020 - 3:42pm

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano announces that the House committee on franchises will start a hearing on the legislative franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN on March 10.

The hearing is set four days before the lower chamber of Congress goes on a recess on March 14. ABS-CBN's franchise will expire on May 4.

February 27, 2020 - 4:38pm

The House of Representatives missed its chance to lead the initiative to renew the ABS-CBN franchise, a think tank says.

"Today it can be said: The entire Duterte establishment except Congress has already endorsed the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise. Its major pillars are now openly supporting the renewal for the sake of the network’s employees —Senator Bong Go and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte," Terry Ridon of Infrawatch PH says. 

"President Rodrigo Duterte has also declared that the onus is on no one else but Congress. There is thus absolutely no more reason for Congress to delay deliberations. It is now time to decide whether to approve or reject the franchise. It has dropped the ball far too long, and it is now time to pick it up," Ridon a former House member and member of the panel on legislative franchises, says.

February 27, 2020 - 3:48pm

Media giant ABS-CBN says they are grateful to President Rodrigo Duterte for accepting their apology.

"We will coordinate with the President's office as it relates to his guidance on donating the refund to a charitable institution," the Kapamilya network says.

"ABS-CBN remains to becoming a better organization and to provide a more meaningful service to Filipinos," it adds.


February 27, 2020 - 1:47pm

The Department of Justice tells the National Telecommunications Commission that "there is sufficient equitable basis to allow broadcast entities to continue operating while the bills for the renewal of their respective franchise remain pending with Congress."

The NTC earlier sought guidance from the Justice department on the congressional franchise of ABS-CBN.

News5 reports that DOJ's legal guidance, signed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, adds that a "more stable legal environment could be created if Congress, by a concurrent resolution, would authorize the NTC to issue a provisional authority to these broadcasting companies."

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