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.
The STAR/Miguel De Guzman, file
Palace reiterates Duterte is neutral on ABS-CBN issue
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Appeals to renew the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN should be directed to Congress, Malacañang said yesterday, as it reiterated that President 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 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.

“The position of the President is he is neutral when it comes to ABS-CBN. They apologized and he has forgiven them,” he added. ?Roque was referring to ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak, who apologized to Duterte in 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.”

Conscience vote

House members will cast a “conscience vote” as they decide whether or not to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said this as the House joint committee on legislative franchises and good government, and public accountability is expected to conclude its hearing on the franchise renewal application of the broadcast giant.

“From the start, we’ve been urging a conscience vote. From the start we’ve been saying if you are pro, then you should open your mind to those who are against. If you are one of the oppositors, then open your mind to the answers of the management,” Cayetano said during a hearing on Monday.

Cayetano was expected to raise a personal issue involving the coverage of the 2016 elections, when the panel tackled alleged biases in political reporting of the network.

He opted to just submit a statement to be answered by the network’s management.

He said he opted not to personally testify or probe ABS-CBN in order to maintain the fairness and impartiality of the proceeding and not influence the perception of all parties, being the institutional leader of the House.

In March, Cayetano raised a personal complaint against the network over its alleged political bias against him during the 2016 elections.

He cited the network’s special attention to the disqualification case against him and his wife, fellow Taguig Rep. Lani Cayetano.

Cayetano questioned why the network only invited him to a single event during the elections, while it gave exposure to other vice presidential candidates on several occasions.

Meanwhile, Katigbak admitted that they should have apologized in 2016 to President Duterte for the non-airing of his campaign ads, and not four years later.

Katigbak admitted to Dasmarinas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. that they learned of the president-elect’s unaired political ads as early as May 2016, days after the presidential polls.

He said they refunded Duterte’s P6 million in four tranches.

Barzaga earlier questioned the network on why it said sorry only in February.

“We admitted that the check issuance was delayed,” Katigbak said, adding they “specifically instructed the agents” to accept payments for political advertisements and that some or many of these sometimes remain unaired.

Based on records the TV network submitted to legislators, the management issued four checks as “reimbursement” – P3 million and P771,000 in September and November 2016, respectively; P181,000 in April 2017 and P2.66 million in March this year.

Barzaga said he was confused why ABS-CBN did not issue a press release when Duterte “donated” P2.66 million to the “House of Hope for Kids with Cancer” in March, as he considers it as “newsworthy.”  Edu Punay, Delon Porcalla

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