President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is ‘completely neutral’ on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal issue and wants the members of the House of Representatives to “vote as your conscience dictates,” according to Malacañang.
“Completely neutral po ang Presidente diyan, vote as your conscience dictates. Hinding-hindi po manghihimasok ang Presidente sa inyong desisyon,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said on Wednesday in a PTV interview.
“Huwag kayong mag-alala mga congressmen, hindi po magagalit o matutuwa ang Presidente kung ipasa ang [prangkisa ng] ng ABS-CBN,” he added.
On Tuesday, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN to operate its various television and radio broadcasting stations nationwide a day after its legislative franchise expired.
In a statement, ABS-CBN said that despite Senate Resolution No. 40, the House of Representatives’ committee on legislative franchises’ letter, the guidance of the Department of Justice, and the sworn statement of NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, NTC did not grant them a provisional authority to operate while its franchise renewal remains pending in Congress.
ABS-CBN went off the air Tuesday night, hours after it received the order from NTC.
Roque said that although the NTC is attached to the Department of Information and Communications Technology, it is a quasi-judicial body that functions independently.
“Ang NTC nakadikit lang po sa DICT para lang po sa mga polisiya at programa, pero ang NTC po, bilang isang quasi-judicial body, ay hindi po puwedeng diktahan ng DICT,” he said.
“Kung ang Presidente po ay makikialam diyan sa NTC, yan po ay krimen. Ito po ay paglabag doon sa code of conduct for local officials at labag din ito sa anti-graft.”
Duterte has been publicly ranting against the media giant since assuming the presidency, after accusing them of not airing his paid campaign ads during the 2016 elections and instead aired an ad against him. He also called the owners of the corporation, the Lopezes as ‘oligarchs.’
Earlier this year, ABS-CBN Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Carlo Katigbak issued an apology for failing to air the President’s PHP 7 million worth of political ads during the 2016 elections.
“We were sorry if we offended the President. That was not the intention of the network. We felt that we were just abiding by the laws and regulations that surround the airing of political ads,” Katigbak said during the Senate Committee on Public Services inquiry into ABS-CBN’s franchise.
It was then accepted by the Chief Executive but then clarified that the issue on the renewal of the Kapamilya network’s franchise will still be up to the decision of Congress.