MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte dedicated a part of his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) to tirades against media and entertainment firm ABS-CBN Corp., which his administration stripped of its public frequencies for its free TV and radio operations in 2020.
ABS-CBN News fact-checks Duterte's claims about the network in his 2021 SONA.
DUTERTE SAYS NETWORK 'CHEATING' ON TAXES
More than an hour into his address, Duterte alleged the network has not been paying the right taxes.
"They are cheating government by the billions in taxes and they still want the frequency because 'yan ang pinapag-awayan. I will give it to a Filipino na gustong gumawa ng tama and pay, because 'yung sa ABS-CBN, even their equipment were imported tax-free. Kaya talaga hindi ako papayag, they still owe government billions," Duterte claimed.
According to Duterte, what ABS-CBN has been paying for in property taxes is based on 4 hectares when it should instead be paying for a 40-hectare property.
"They are paying 4 hectares in property taxes. But they are supposed to be occupying 40 hectares for that complex there," he said, apparently referring to the ABS-CBN compound in Sgt. Esguerra Ave./Mother Ignacia St., Quezon City.
ABS-CBN's compound in Quezon City, however, is only 4.4 hectares.
Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) officials who testified in the congressional franchise hearings last year cleared the network of tax delinquencies, which contradicts Duterte's claims.
They said the network has been "regularly paying its corporate taxes for the past years," remitting about P15.3 billion in taxes from 2016 to 2019.
"There (are) no outstanding delinquent accounts as we speak," BIR Assistant Commissioner Manuel Mapoy said in the hearing.
ABS-CBN chief financial officer Ricardo Tan also testified that the network paid P164 million in 2018, adding that the company has regularly paid its corporate taxes.
Tan said that from 2003 to 2019, the ABS-CBN Group of companies (including ABS-CBN Corp.) paid a total of P71.5 billion in taxes.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the BIR's statements during the franchise hearings are contrary to what Duterte said on Monday.
“Binanggit niya kanina ulit yung issue ng ABS-CBN, he again repeated this long-debunked lie that ABS-CBN cheats on its tax responsibilities or payments. Malinaw naman nung nagkaroon ng pagdinig sa Kamara, even the BIR ang nagsabi walang tax dues o hindi nabayarang buwis ang ABS-CBN."
"At kahit doon sa kaniyang sinabi na 40 hectares, ilang beses na rin akong nakabalik diyan sa ABS-CBN ni hindi nga umabot ng 4 ektarya yan, that’s only I think 3.8 hectares so tama yung binanggit na spreader ng misinformation fake news at lies ang huling SONA ni Pang. Duterte," he said.
'NO PROBLEM' WITH ABS-CBN?
Duterte claimed he "had no problem" with the network.
"Nilamon ko lahat 'yon because I did not want to be vindictive," he said, referring to the issue of political ads in the 2016 presidential elections.
However, in an ambush interview in 2017, Duterte said he would block the renewal of the network's franchise for allegedly accepting money for his campaign ads that it failed to air before the 2016 polls. He also said that ABS-CBN failed to return the money.
In 2019, Duterte also threatened that the network would no longer be on the airwaves, adding that it should not expect its franchise to be renewed.
On July 10, 2020, his allies in the House of Representatives killed ABS-CBN's franchise application.
In a Senate hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise in February 2020, ABS-CBN's CEO Carlo Katigbak clarified that all the national political ads of Duterte in the 2016 elections were aired but some of his local ads worth P7 million could not be accommodated.
He said around P4 million was refunded to the Duterte camp but that the network was “delayed” in giving back the remaining P2.6 million in ad money. The amount "was no longer accepted by the President," he said.
"On this issue, we acknowledge our shortcoming in our failure to release the refund in a timely manner," Katigbak said.
DUTERTE-CARPIO TAGGED AS DRUG TRAFFICKER?
Duterte alleged that ABS-CBN published "garbage" about his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, for supposedly reporting that she was a drug trafficker.
Duterte was likely referring to the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" series of videos uploaded in 2019 by a whistleblower named "Bikoy" and was reported by many media outlets, not just ABS-CBN.
Bikoy, later identified as Peter Joemel Advincula, tagged Duterte-Carpio’s husband for alleged “tara” or grease money, which the Duterte family has denied.
Bikoy also alleged in the videos that Honeylet Avanceña, Duterte's partner, had been receiving money from drug syndicates through a bank account under the name of their daughter Kitty.
ABS-CBN did not publish any report tagging Duterte-Carpio or Kitty as drug traffickers, but it did publish the Dutertes' denials.
The network's shutdown has been labeled by various groups as politically motivated and an attack on press freedom by the Duterte administration.
The closure of its free TV and radio broadcast resulted in the retrenchment of thousands of ABS-CBN employees, including entire units, compounding the far-reaching impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the crippling effects of its franchise denial, ABS-CBN has continued its public service programs and the production of entertainment titles.