Duterte to ABS-CBN: Settle your taxes first

President Duterte said the Lopez-owned company should settle first its tax obiligations.
Presidential Photo/Alfred Frias

MANILA, Philippines — While the tax bureau has said that ABS-CBN regularly paid taxes, President Duterte insisted on Monday that he would not allow the broadcast firm to operate even if its franchise is restored by Congress.

Duterte said the Lopez-owned company should settle first its tax obiligations.

He said while it is within the power of Congress to grant the television network a fresh franchise, issuing ABS-CBN a license to operate would be like giving a “prize” for a “criminal act” because of its supposed unpaid taxes.

Duterte said he would block any move by the broadcast giant to operate again.

“Congress is planning to restore the franchise of ABS-CBN. I do not have a problem if Congress restores it, but I will not allow the NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) to grant them the permit to operate,” he said.

“Unless and until the Lopezes pay their taxes... I will ignore your franchise and I will not give them the license to operate. Kalokohan ‘yan (It’s nonsense). It’s like giving them a prize for committing criminal acts,” the President added.

The alleged tax delinquency of ABS-CBN was one of the issues tackled during the congressional hearings on the bill seeking to grant the network a fresh 25-year franchise.

During one of the hearings, Bureau of Internal Revenue Assistant Commissioner Manuel Mapoy said the network has no outstanding tax obligations.

The broadcasting firm paid more than P15.3 billion in taxes from 2016 to 2019, Mapoy said.

In July last year, the House committee on legislative franchises rejected the ABS-CBN franchise bill.

Last month, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos Recto filed measures seeking to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte obtained information that ABS-CBN had sold its assets to a special purpose vehicle or SPV, an entity that can restructure debts and undertake other restructuring-related activities.

Some of the loans ABS-CBN owed to the Development Bank of the Philippines were supposedly condoned and the network was able to acquire its assets, according to Roque. The DBP has denied writing off or condoning loans in favor of the Lopez-controlled firms.

Roque said the ombudsman would conduct a review to determine “if there is a course of action for any violation of the anti-graft law.” – Edith Regalado

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