Palace: ABS-CBN artists should plead to Congress for franchise renewal

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 10 2020 03:44 PM

Supporters sign up a petition as members of the ABSCBN Rank and File Employees Union and press freedom advocates hold a protest, calling for the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, at the ELJ Tower, Quezon City, Feb. 7, 2020. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- ABS-CBN artists should plead to Congress for the renewal of the company's franchise, Malacañang said Monday as it insisted that President Rodrigo Duterte has "definitely nothing to do" with the media conglomerate's latest legal ordeal.

Renewing ABS-CBN's franchise, which will expire next month, is the prerogative of Congress, Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo said after the government's top lawyer sought to invalidate the company's license to operate.

"Mali yung kanilang (ABS-CBN artists) pinakikiusapan. Dapat makiusap sila sa Congress na irenew yung lisensya kasi kay Presidente wala naman siyang pakialam doon. Pangalawa, ang hukuman naman ang magde-decide doon, hindi rin siya (Duterte) so palaging outside the kulambo siya doon. But I can understand the feelings of people in ABS," Panelo told Palace reporters.

(They're asking the wrong person. They should plead to Congress for their franchise renewal since the President has nothing to do with it. Second, it's the court that will decide not the President.)

"Let me just stress this, it's Congress that has the authority to grant or to renew, not the President," he added.

Solicitor General Jose Calida on Monday sought to nullify the franchise even before Congress could decide on whether to extend it for another 25 years. At least 11 bills have been filed in support of ABS-CBN’s bid to renew its franchise.

"Alam mo, trabaho ng Solicitor General na maghain ng anumang petisyon pagka mayroong paglabag sa batas," Panelo, also the President's chief legal counsel, told radio DZMM earlier in the day.

(It's the job of the solicitor general to file a petition whenever there is a violation of the law.)

Several artists have called for a fresh 25-year franchise for ABS-CBN by airing their support for an on-ground and online signature campaign petitioning Congress to act on the issue.

Among the celebrities that have expressed their support for the franchise renewal are Lea Salonga, Anne Curtis, Vice Ganda, and Ogie Alcasid.

'WE DID NOT VIOLATE THE LAW'

In seeking to invalidate ABS-CBN's franchise, the solicitor general accused the company of "highly abusive practices."

"These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years," Caldia said in his complaint.

ABS-CBN on Monday, however, insisted that it is compliant with all the laws governing its franchise and has secured the necessary permits for its business operations.

"We reiterate that everything we do is in accordance with the law. We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN," the company said in a statement.

Duterte has publicly criticized ABS-CBN for allegedly not airing a campaign ad that he paid for before the 2016 presidential elections. 

He even urged the owners of ABS-CBN to just sell the company, saying he would "see to it that you're out."

Panelo, however, downplayed the President's threats against ABS-CBN, saying Duterte is only expressing his "displeasure" with the company.

ABS-CBN operates free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM while news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.