Photo shows a copy of the refund check that ABS-CBN Corp. gave President Rodrigo Duterte for the remainder of P7 million in ads that the network failed to air. Network CEO Carlo Katigbak said that "of P65 million worth of spots [that Duterte bought], we failed to air P7 million worth."
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo
At franchise hearing, ABS-CBN scolded for airing election ad against Duterte
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - February 24, 2020 - 4:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, a longtime aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, on Monday asked why ABS-CBN Corp. aired an advertisement which he said was meant to “malign” the then-Davao City mayor during the 2016 elections. 

In 2016, the country’s top broadcaster aired a negative political advertisement showing children reacting to some of Duterte’s controversial remarks, including his comment about the rape-slay of an Australian missionary and his cursing of Pope Francis.

The attack advertisement, dubbed by Go as “black propaganda,” was paid for by Antonio Trillanes IV—then a senator and running for vice president. Trillanes has been a vocal critic of Duterte since then.

"How did it become a political ad? Are you promoting a candidate here? Or are you destroying a candidate? I just want to know what the priority of the network is. Which is more important for you? Black propaganda or political ads?" Go, Duterte’s de facto spokesperson, asked officials of the media company present in the hearing.

Go: Ad meant to 'turn tide' vs Duterte

Go, who is known to be close to the president even as a member of a separate branch of goverment, said the 30-second clip was aired to turn the tide against Duterte’s overwhelming popularity at the time.

A day after ABS-CBN began airing the advertisement, Duterte’s running mate, now House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, secured a temporary restraining order from a Taguig court.

The court ruled that it “cannot allow minor children to be used in such black propaganda.”

"Hindi mababaw ang rason ng pangulo sa kanyang grievances against the network. Nasaktan ang presidente, nababoy ang presidente," Go said.

(The president’s grievances against the network are not shallow. He was hurt, his reputation has been tarnished.)

He added: “The president is not vindictive but it is clear that someone went overboard trying to malign him.”

ABS-CBN, whose legislative franchise is expiring in May, has been at the receiving end of many of Duterte’s verbal attacks.

The president has repeatedly threatened he would block the renewal of the broadcast network’s franchise. In December last year, he urged the owners of ABS-CBN to just sell the company.

‘No political agenda

The president, on many occasions, accused the company of swindling for refusing to return the money he paid for campaign commercials even if the advertisements did not air.

Carlo Katigbak, ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer, said a network committee had allowed the video to air because ads against a person are considered legal election propaganda.

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."

Most Duterte ads were aired

Katigbak said the national political advertisements of Duterte amounting to P117 million were aired.

But some of his local ads were not fully accommodated since slots for local stations were limited to only two minutes per hour.

He said the network had 19 minutes per hour for airing national ads and just two minutes an hour for local ads, which are usually only seen within one province.

"Of P65 million worth of spots, we failed to air P7 million worth," Katigbak said.

The CEO of the network said ABS-CBN refunded about P4 million to Duterte's camp, which was accepted. And was delayed in returning the remaining P2.6 million refund, which Duterte did not accept.

Katigbak also apologized to Duterte for offending him in the past but maintained that the network does not push its own political agenda.

“We are sorry if we offended the president. That was not the intention of the network,” Katigbak told the Senate panel.

He added: “[ABS-CBN] does not and will not have its own political agenda.”

The Senate committee on public services is looking into the renewal of the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN and the network’s supposed violations Monday. 

ABS-CBN FRANCHISE BONG GO CARLO KATIGBAK RODRIGO DUTERTE
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