MANILA - After President Duterte accepted the apology of ABS-CBN over the airing of a 2016 negative political ad, he should not remain "neutral" over the issue of the network, a lawmaker said on Thursday.
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered ABS-CBN on Tuesday to “cease and desist” (CDO) from broadcasting on television and radio, one day after the company’s 25-year franchise expired.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said in a statement that Duterte's previous pronouncements that ABS-CBN's franchise should not be renewed for alleged violations had prompted the mostly pro-administration lower house to sit on the network's franchise renewal bills.
At least 11 bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise have been pending before Congress since 2019.
“It was President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated pronouncements that he is opposed to the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise and he is not going to sign a bill granting any renewal which inveigled the leadership of the House of Representatives to unduly temporize on the renewal of the franchise and allowed the same to expire,” he said.
Lagman said Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque's earlier statement that Duterte is "neutral" over the network's franchise "does not give the categorical go-signal for the reasonable consideration and approval of ABS-CBN’s franchise without further delay.”
The veteran lawmaker said this "neutrality" does not give the green light for the House leadership to act on the issue, stressing the proceedings would start at the beckoning of the President.
“It is not that the Members of the House should be prodded to act based on their conscience, but since the President was the first to muddle the issue on renewal, then it is incumbent on him to unravel the controversy,” Lagman said.
If Duterte will be clear and straightforward, then the House might act fast on ABS-CBN's franchise renewal, he said.
“Aside from hastening the resumption of ABS-CBN’s full operations, guaranteeing the jobs of its workers and assuring public access to information and entertainment, this unequivocal statement of the President would also quash any lingering suspicion that a hidden agenda is behind the closure of ABS-CBN,” Lagman said.
Roque has justified Duterte's neutral stand on ABS-CBN's franchise, saying it involves private interests.
Duterte previously threatened to block the ABS-CBN franchise renewal over a 2016 presidential campaign ad, which was paid for by former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, one of his staunchest critics.
It featured clips of Duterte using foul language and making offensive gestures plus clips of children asking if what he was doing was right.
Last February, ABS-CBN Corp. chief executive officer Carlo L. Katigbak apologized in a Senate hearing, saying the network was sorry if that offended Duterte as he denied insinuations of bias.
Shortly after, Duterte accepted the executive's apology but clarified that he would leave the fate of ABS-CBN's franchise to Congress.
--Report from Zandro Ochona, ABS-CBN News