Palace on calls to renew ABS-CBN franchise: Address appeal to Congress as Duterte remains 'neutral'

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace on calls to renew ABS-CBN franchise: Address appeal to Congress as Duterte remains 'neutral'
Employees and supporters light candles at the gate of the the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City on May 5, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Appeals to renew the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN should be directed to Congress, Malacañang said Tuesday, as it reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte remains "neutral" on the issue.

Various sectors have urged Duterte to support the bill renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN, noting that thousands of workers may lose their jobs if the Lopez-owned network shuts down.

Among the groups that are urging Duterte to back the ABS-CBN franchise bill is the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, which has also expressed hope that the president and the television station's officials would engage in reconciliatory talks.

"Perhaps we have to address the appeal to Congress because the decision (on whether to renew the franchise) would be made by Congress. The president has said that members of Congress can vote according to their conscience because he is neutral," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing when asked to react to the statement of the evangelicals.

"The position of the president is he is neutral when it comes to ABS-CBN. They apologized and he has forgiven them. He is neutral, vote according to your conscience," he added.

Roque was referring to ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak, who apologized to Duterte last February for not airing his advertisements during the 2016 presidential race. The network had felt that it was just complying with laws and regulations on the airing of political ads, Katigbak said.

Duterte has accepted the apology and has asked ABS-CBN to donate the P2.6 million he paid for the ad placement to "a charitable institution of their choice.”

Asked to react to lawmakers who used the hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise to air their personal gripes against the network, Roque replied: "Let's just respect the power of the Lower House because the bill renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN should emanate from them."


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