The crackdown on ABS-CBN, the oldest broadcasting network in the country, has inflamed a whirlwind of emotions: grief, vindication, confusion, hope, despair. Calmness may not be the default mood about the issue, but that seemed to be the disposition of ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak. During his remarks early Monday at the senate hearing for the renewal of the network franchise, the bespectacled Katigbak spoke in measured statements and a reverent tone, at one point even apologizing to the Philippine president.
"We're sorry if we offended the president, that was not the intention of the network," he offered to the Senate panel. He also stated, "While our commitment to serve is genuine, we also acknowledge that we are not a perfect organization. Where we have shortcomings we acknowledge them, and we work to correct them," adding that while ABS-CBN has not broken the law, it is also open to criticism.
His remarks have been met divisively, between those for and against the president, but his honorable demeanor did not go unnoticed. Many are now asking new questions. One of them, not surprisingly, is “Who exactly is Carlo Katigbak?
Born April 24, 1970, Carlo Joaquin Tadeo L. Katigbak was appointed the President and Chief Executive Officer of ABS-CBN in 2015, and officially took on this role on January 1, 2016.
Prior to this, he was the Head of Access, having managed the operations of Sky Cable. He eventually became the VP for Provincial Operations of Sky in 1998. In 1999, he served as Managing Director of ABS-CBN Interactive, helping the major broadcaster enter the realm of online and mobile business, ushering the platform into the digital age.
A graduate of Ateneo De Manila University and having completed the Advanced Management Program of Harvard Business School in 2009, Katigbak has over twenty years of experience under his belt in both management and communications. He served as the COO of Sky Cable from 2005 to 2012, becoming its president in 2013.
What many might not know is that the Carlo Katigbak who showed up at the Senate hearing in the afternoon of February 24 is the same Carlo Katigbak that ABS-CBN sees in its office everyday—except perhaps a little more cheerful. When it was the turn of John Villanueva, head of the ABS-CBN employees, to speak — about his worries over the threat of the company’s closure — Katigbak was seen somewhere in the session hall looking anguished, taking off his glasses to wipe away errant tears.
“When Carlo became the president of ABS, I told him I was very happy about it because he reminded me of my dad,” says Ernie Lopez, president of the company’s Creative Programs, Inc., son of Geny Lopez, former President and chairman of ABS-CBN. “Carlo has both the high IQ of my dad but more importantly, he also has the high EQ of my dad.”
In a long, heartfelt message to ANCX, Lopez echoes what we mentioned earlier. “What people saw in the senate today is the character of a man who is exactly the same way when he is with anybody else. He is not pretending to be humble. He really is that way. He could have had a big office when he became president of ABS and he was offered a much larger office, but he chose to stay in the same modest office he has always had even before he became president.”
Ernie recalls that when Katigbak was heading Pinoy Central, his office was a mere table in the middle of a floor. “He had no walls,” says Lopez. “He is absolutely transparent.”
Lopez adds that almost all of Katigbak’s key managers in Pinoy Central had gone up to hold key positions in ABS-CBN, proof of the good training they got from CLK—which is how Katigbak is formally yet endearingly referred to in the network premises.
“He was trained by my brother, so his work ethic is unquestioned. He is driven, passionate, intelligent, a quick learner, and knows how to handle people,” Lopez adds.
“He has always been very candid with me. I remember him telling me he felt so much pressure from my family members like Gabby and my dad because they trusted him so much and believed in him. When he was given big responsibilities, he said he felt the weight of the possibility of failure and he did not want to disappoint my dad or Gabby. But he always came through for them. When Sky Cable went through a very difficult transition period because of the previous manager, he was tasked with holding the company together at a very young age.”
To hear Lopez say it, Katigbak represents a new era in ABS-CBN. “ABS-CBN is a very different company today than it was 25 years ago. Today, when faced with the possibility of annihilation, the company initiates a prayer walk at 6:30 AM during a time when people are afraid of covid 19, an hourly prayer meeting held in different departments turn by turn, and Carlo faced the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines with humility, honesty, and with calmness.
“For me, the biggest accomplishment of Carlo as the CEO and President of ABS-CBN is that under his watch the culture of this company has become spiritual and humbly turns to God for help instead of attacking and retaliating against its opposition. He has inspired ALL the employees of the company and made all of us proud of our company and proud to follow his leadership. He has inspired many in the general public without calling attention to himself, without being self-righteous, or hostile.”