Duterte says businesses seeking franchise should pay right taxes

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte says businesses seeking franchise should pay right taxes
Speaking during a televised public address last Monday, Duterte said some businesses seek protection from the government, but fail to settle their financial obligations to the government.
Presidential Photo / King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has warned businesses seeking franchises that they “won’t see the light of day” unless they pay the right amount of taxes, a remark that Malacañang said applies to shuttered broadcast giant ABS-CBN.

Speaking during a televised public address last Monday, Duterte said some businesses seek protection from the government, but fail to settle their financial obligations to the government.

“You have seen how I criticize those who are not paying taxes and are riding on the popularity because it’s so popular. It’s a fad now to have these kind of shows... but yet abandoning their duty to the government. And you ask protection from the government in your business. In return, you pay your taxes correctly,” he said.

“You do not pay your taxes correctly, that’s what happened to you. So there will be no opening. I assure you all franchises won’t be implemented, I won’t implement until they settle their full accounts with the government,” he added.

The President made the remark after some lawmakers filed bills granting a fresh franchise to ABS-CBN, which was forced to go off the air and lay off thousands of workers last year because of the expiration of its franchise.

Duterte, however, did not mention the television network in his hourlong address.

“You are asking for a franchise. For all I care, you can have a thousand franchises. You will not see the light of day there until you come to government with clean hands. As they say, ‘He who comes (into) equity must come with clean hands,’” he said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. claimed Duterte was referring to all businesses that are required to have franchises.

“All of them are addressed to those applying for franchise and insofar as ABS-CBN is one of them, I guess it is a safe conclusion, it is also applicable to ABS-CBN, but it applies to all those who want a franchise,” Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

Asked whether Duterte is now setting conditions for the approval of ABS-CBN’s franchise, Roque replied: “As I said, it is definitely applicable to ABS-CBN, was not referring specifically, so I cannot answer that question.”

Duterte also talked about a company that he said is occupying “something like 44,000 square meters” but did not provide specifics.

He said that while some businesses are not paying the right amount of taxes, the poor are relying on the government for COVID-19 vaccines.

“Wala akong galit. Bayaran mo lang ang gobyerno, ako sasaludo ako sa inyo, limang beses in full attention. Hindi ako magagalit. Presidente ako eh, ‘yung maliliit na bagay na ganoon personal (I am not angry. Just pay the government and I will salute you five times in full attention. I won’t be angry. I am the President. These are small personal issues),” the President said.

“But the bigger issue, the bigger picture in the background is really the unpaid taxes. That’s for real. And no franchise will ever be implemented. Even if you are given 5,000 franchises, I won’t implement it. Settle your accounts with government,” he added.

Duterte, who has accused ABS-CBN of defaming him during the 2016 national election, clarified that the granting of a franchise does not mean that previous wrongdoings have been forgotten.

“And before opening, we will have a short – short, very short, serious talk. Do not compel me to do something which is not lawful. Just because you give them a franchise, it does not follow that all of their misdeeds in the past are condoned and forgiven,” he said.

Last July, a House panel rejected a bill that would have granted ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise, a development widely seen as a huge blow to press freedom.

While Malacañang insisted that Duterte had nothing to do with the House panel’s decision, the President claimed in his fifth state of the nation address last year that he was a “casualty” of the Lopezes, the family that owns ABS-CBN.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos Recto have filed new bills granting a 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN, but some lawmakers believe the renewal of the network’s franchise requires the support of Malacañang.

As this developed, Santos-Recto revived the bid to bring back ABS-CBN on the air and renew the broadcast giant’s legislative franchise.

Recto filed House Bill 8298 seeking to grant the network a new 25-year franchise after its application for renewal was rejected by the House legislative franchises committee last July. – Edu Punay

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