Duterte accepts ABS-CBN apology, stresses he will not interfere on franchise issue

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Duterte accepts ABS-CBN apology, stresses he will not interfere on franchise issue
February 24, 2020 photo shows executives of ABS-CBN Corp. attending the Senate hearing on the broadcasting giant's franchise.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he accepts ABS-CBN's apology over election ads in the 2016 elections, but stressed that he has nothing to do with the issues the network is facing in Congress and at the Supreme Court.

He also said that the franchise bill for ABS-CBN must emanate from the House of Representatives and that he will not interfere.

"Yes. Ay, nandiyan yan. I accept the apology, of course," he said when asked if he accepts the apology made by ABS-CBN CEO Carlo Katigbak at a Senate hearing earlier this week.

He adds the network can just donate the P2.6 million that ABS-CBN tried to refund him for unaired ads but that his campaign refused to accept. The money is part of around P7 million that the network tried to refund him. A previous tranche was accepted.

"Truth to tell,  I have kept a health distance from uh... it's now, they are deliberating in Congres... the lower house and the senate... there's a plan that they would pass a joint resolution," he said, adding "the critical move is in the House and I tell you I am not going to interfere."

He added that he cannot stop the Office of the Solicitor General either from pursuing a quo warrant petition filed against ABS-CBN before the Supreme Court.

House panel seeks provisional authority for ABS-CBN

The House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Wednesday urged the National Telecommunication Commission to grant ABS-CBN Corp. a provisional authority to continue operating past the expiry of its legislative franchise.

At a Senate hearing earlier this week, the NTC said that this was done for other franchisees in the past, although NTC Commissoner Gamaliel Cordoba pointed out that those franchisees did not face opposition.

"We enjoin you to grant ABS-CBN Corp. a provisional authority to operate effective May 4, 2020 until such time that the House of Representatives or Congress has made a decision on its application,” Rep. Franz Alvarez (Palawan), panel chair, said in a letter addressed to Cordoba.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig)—who has said the media company has played favorites during election campaigns—concurred with the request.

The House panel also urged NTC to issue the same provisional authority to ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc., Sky Cable Corporation and Amcara Broadcasting Network, Inc.—subsidiaries and affiliates of ABS-CBN Corp.

Alvarez said the committee has started deliberating on the company's application for franchise by asking parties to submit their position papers after its previous inaction on the bills seeking to renew the franchise of the broadcasting giant.

There are 12 bills filed at the lower chamber seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise. Early this week, Rep. Raul De Mar (Cebu) filed Joint Resolution 28 seeking to extend the validity of ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise until July 30, 2022.

Cayetano earlier said the House is likely to delay hearings until May or August.

Drilon’s concurrent resolution

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon filed a concurrent resolution Wednesday “expresses the sense of Congress that ABS-CBN Corp. should be allowed to operate under the terms of its existing franchise pending final determination of the renewal of its franchise by the 18th Congress and for the NTC to issue ABS-CBN Corp. the appropriate provisional authority.”

A concurrent resolution does not have the force of law if approved by Congress and the president like a joint resolution as it merely expresses the “sense of Congress” on an issue.

Last week, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Congress may direct the NTC to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN through a concurrent resolution.

Sought for comment on the House panel's letter, Guevarra said that "from a legal standpoint, that’s substantially better than mere customary practice or established precedents."

He added: "The authorization from the House franchise committee is enough for NTC purposes, but a similar resolution from the Senate will provide a tougher armor to the NTC in the event of a legal challenge."

RELATED: Palace: Letting ABS-CBN operate with expired franchise could be questioned in court



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