MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday accepted the apology of the country's leading broadcast company, ABS-CBN, two days after its officials testified before a Senate panel on issues surrounding the network's franchise renewal.
Speaking to reporters in Malacañang, Duterte said he was accepting the apology of the TV network but clarified that he would leave the fate of the ABS-CBN franchise to Congress.
“Yes, nandiyan yan. I accept the apology of course," Duterte said when asked by a reporter if he accepts the apology of ABS-CBN CEO Carlo L. Katigbak.
Katigbak, during the Senate public services committee hearing on the network's compliance with its franchise, said he was sorry if President Duterte was aggrieved over an aired negative political advertisement paid for by his staunch critic Antonio Trillanes IV.
"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.
The ad, dubbed by Duterte ally Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go as “black propaganda” featured clips of Duterte using foul language and making offensive gestures with clips of children asking if Duterte was doing the right thing.
Duterte then said he was leaving the ABS-CBN franchise issue to Congress.
“I leave it to Congress…The critical move is in the House and I tell you I am not going to interfere. Wala talaga ako,” the President said.
Duterte, who has previously threatened to block the ABS-CBN franchise renewal, however noted that he did not speak to any lawmaker regarding the network’s license to operate which expires in May.
“I never, never, never really called anybody about this, even before. Wala akong kinausap na tao dito,” he said.
Duterte however did not give a categorical answer when asked if he would sign into law the bill granting ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year license to operate in the event that the proposal hurdles Congress.
“I will cross the bridge when I get there. Maybe I will call the media to help me out. It would be a difficult decision, really. So I will... I will cross the bridge when I get there,” he said.
As to Solicitor General Jose Calida’s move to invalidate ABS-CBN’s existing franchise via a “quo warranto” petition, Duterte said he cannot do anything about it because the government’s top lawyer does not report to him.
“Ang problema kasi nitong sa SolGen, once he makes an official statement that there is a violation of law, then estopped na ako. Parang, hindi na ako makagalaw. I cannot tell him 'Stop’,” Duterte said.
Calida earlier this month asked the Supreme Court to revoke ABS-CBN's franchise due to alleged "abuses" like pay-per-view (PPV) operation and violation of the constitutional ban against foreign ownership.
The government’s top lawyer also sought a gag order against the network, alleging that ABS-CBN "engaged in propaganda.”
But Duterte said SolGen works on his own.
“The SolGen does not clear with me unlike the Secretary of Justice. He will call my attention or he will bring it up in the Cabinet. Ang SolGen hindi. He studies and he goes to the public and say, 'There is a violation here.' Hindi ko na mapigil 'yan (I can’t stop that),” Duterte said.
ABS-CBN in a public statement said Calida’s allegations were “without merit” as the organization “complies with all the pertinent laws governing its franchise.”
House Committee on Legislative Franchises Vice-Chair Antonio Albano said Duterte's acceptance of the apology "is welcome news, because there will be lesser hot heads, and the cooler heads will always prevail."
"President Duterte is known not to be vindictive, especially to those who ask for forgiveness and have a contrite heart," said Albano, whose committee is tasked with hearing bills to grant ABS-CBN Corp a new 25-year franchise.
Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go urged House lawmakers anew to decide on the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise.
“Mas priority ko po ngayon na idinig na ang franchise bill. You approve sa Lower House o i-deny. If you approve, padala na ninyo dito sa Senado and we will vote dito," he said, noting that resolutions seeking the extension of the media company's franchise are "unnecessary."
“Bilang isang Senador, nais ko sanang matapos na sa madaling panahon ang usapin sa prangkisa ng ABS CBN. Mas lalong umiinit ang isyu, mas nahahaluan ng pulitika habang tumatagal. Either the Lower House will grant or deny the franchise renewal. If it decides to grant it and the bill will be forwarded to the Senate, then I will study and vote according to my conscience and my conscience will always consider the interest of the Filipino people,” Go added.
news.abs-cbn.com is the news website of ABS-CBN Corp.