Duterte asks Congress: Why not just pass ABS-CBN franchise?

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 06 2020 09:11 AM | Updated as of May 06 2020 09:31 AM

President 'completely neutral' on top Philippine broadcaster 

Duterte asks Congress: Why not just pass ABS-CBN franchise? 1
Activists light candles during a protest rally in front of the ABS-CBN headquarters in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines on Tuesday. May 5, 2020. A government agency ordered ABS-CBN, the country's largest network, to stop its operations. Basilio H. Sepe, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte believes lawmakers should tackle the stalled franchise renewal of ABS-CBN Corp, his spokesperson said Wednesday, a day after regulators forced the country's largest media network off air. 

Congress, where proposals to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN has languished for 3 years, holds "primary and exclusive jurisdiction" over the license to operate media outlets, said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque. 

"Ang panindigan po ng Presidente, kung nakuha naman po ng Kongreso na magpasa ng resolution na humingi sa NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) na magbigay ng provisional authority, bakit hindi na lang magpasa ng batas na nagbibigay ng franchise sa ABS-CBN?" he told state-run channel PTV-4. 

(The stand of our President there is that if Congress was able to pass a resolution asking the NTC to give ABS-CBN provisional authority to operate, why not just pass a law that would give ABS-CBN a franchise.) 

Lawmakers earlier urged the National Telecommunications Commission to allow ABS-CBN to operate provisionally after its 25-year license expired Monday. 

Officials previously gave the assurance that ABS-CBN would get a provisional permit. However, the NTC's cease-and-desist order on Tuesday cited the franchise expiration and said the outfit's operators would have to appeal for a return to the airwaves. 

Duterte cannot endorse ABS-CBN's franchise bills as urgent because it involves "private interest", said Roque. 

"Kahit gusto po na makapagbigay ng prangkisa ng Presidente mismo, wala po siyang ganiyang kapangyarihan," he said. 

(Even if the President wants to grant the franchise, he has no power to do so.) 

Duterte, he said, earlier accepted the network's apology for airing a 2016 campaign ad placed by a critic. 

"Huwag po kayong mag-alala mga congressmen. Hindi po magagalit, hindi matutuwa ang Presidente kung kayo po'y ipasa ang ABS-CBN. Completely neutral po ang Presidente d'yan," Roque said.

(Congressmen should not worry. The President will not get mad, happy if you pass the ABS-CBN franchise. The President is completely neutral there.) 

The Department of Information and Communications Technology, he added, cannot dictate on the NTC because it is a "quasi-judicial body." 

Aside from franchise delays, ABS-CBN is facing a quo warranto challenge lodged before the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Jose Calida. The government's lead lawyer is seeking to nullify ABS-CBN's current franchise due to alleged abuses like illegal pay-per-view offering and foreign ownership.

The network, which reaches millions of Filipinos through its television, radio and online platforms, said it has not violated the law in its 65 years of service.