Anti-communist task force, PCOO spread false claims on ABS-CBN franchise

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Anti-communist task force, PCOO spread false claims on ABS-CBN franchise
File photo dated May 6 shows a security guard passing by the logo of ABS-CBN Corporation at the network’s facade a day it was shut down by the National Telecommunications Commission.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Palace communications team late Saturday night washed its hands of a social media post claiming, incorrectly, that ABS-CBN's "request for franchise renewal was disapproved" because of legal issues raised against the network.

ABS-CBN's franchise lapsed on May 4 without the House of Representatives acting on bills for its renewal. The House could not have disapproved the bills since they were still at the committee level.

The post that the Presidential Communications Operations Office shared was from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which published a series of infographics that accused ABS-CBN of franchise violations and held the network responsible for the expiration of its broadcast permit.

"ABS-CBN illegally collected money from the Filipino people for its Kapamilya TV plus and Black box, when in fact, it should be free because they were using free air wave frequencies owned by the Filipino people," one graphic read. 

READ: Calida says ABS-CBN's KBO service illegal, but network says it has permits

The network ha addressed these issues at a Senate hearing as well as in a pleading at the Supreme Court, where Solicitor General Jose Calida had filed a petition asking for the franchise to be revoked due to alleged violations.

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict is not a government regulator nor does it have any authority to rule on the alleged violations.

The infographics were shared by the official PCOO page but have since been taken down on both pages. 

RELATED: Anti-communist gov't task force posts false quote of Anakbayan spokesperson

'Not the usual vetting process'

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar disowned the erroneous post, saying the sharing occurred without "the usual vetting process" of the office. 

PCOO is a member of the NTF-ELCAC.

"The posted content is not in any way an official statement or an opinion of the PCOO. The issue regarding ABS-CBN's Corporation's network franchise remains in the purview of Congress," Andanar's statement read. 

At the Senate hearing on the network's franchise, the Bureau of Internal Revenue said that ABS-CBN has no tax deficiencies, while the Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed that the company has no corporate violations or complaints.

The National Telecommunications Commission, which issued the cease and desist order against ABS-CBN, cited the expiration of the legislative franchise in its order for the network to stop broadcasting but did not cite the alleged violations that the NTF-ELCAC claimed were facts.

Even presidential spokesperson Harry Roque disowned the posts in a statement, saying: “We wish to clarify that the above posts did not come from the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson and the NTF Stratcomms which is headed by the OPS. Hence, not the official statement of our Office."

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, whose agency is a member of the NTF-ELCAC, also said that the post was "fake news" that had nothing to do with the task force's assigned role. 

"I have no idea as to why NTF-ELCAC would post such a statement that has no relevance to its mandate. That might be a bogus post," he said in Filipino. 

Rep. Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna), for his part, said that the statement of NTF-ELCAC indicated that President Rodrigo Duterte was behind the network shutdown.

"This reveals who really is behind the shutdown. As we have been saying, the buck stops at the Palace," he said. 

"NTF-ELCAC is spreading disinformation, fake news, to advance its sinister agenda. And taxpayers are funding this fake news peddling task force. We are spending P36 billion so that this task force can advance someone's agenda." 

RELATED: 'Critical but not seditious,' journalist, artists say of papers in halted Bulacan relief drive

Executive Order No. 70, s. 2018 created NTF-ELCAC as an attached task force under the Office of the President, with the president himself sitting as its chair. 

Malacañang previously said that President Duterte is now "neutral" on whether Congress should grant ABS-CBN a franchise.

Fourteen bills pushing for the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise have been filed since 2014.

The chief executive repeatedly threatened the broadcast giant in the past, saying if it were up to him, their franchise would not be renewed. 



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