Malacañang said it respects the decision of the House committee on legislative franchises to reject ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, as it reiterated its “neutral” stance on the issue.
“Much as we want to work with the aforesaid media network, we have to abide by the resolution of the House committee,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a statement.
“The Palace has maintained a neutral stance on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the two co-equal branches government,” he also said.
Malacañang maintains that the renewal of the network’s 25-year franchise is the “sole prerogative of Congress.”
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo chimed in, saying the executive branch, which Duterte leads “has not meddled — and will never interfere — with the affairs of a co-equal, separate and independent branch of the government.”
“ABS-CBN, as well as those against its franchise application, were given the opportunity to be heard their respective sides, that due process requires. This is a democratic process and we, in the Executive Branch, must respect its outcome,” said Panelo.
Duterte not neutral. Despite Malacañang’s claim of non-interference, it was Duterte himself who first threatened to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal. (READ: TIMELINE: Duterte against ABS-CBN's franchise renewal)
Duterte first lashed out against the network on March 30, 2017, accusing it of unfair reporting, along with the Philippine Daily Inquirer. But it was a month later when he first publicly threatened to block their franchise renewal.
"I will file a complaint. Congress, no need to renew it [franchise]. But to operate is something else, so I will point this out, your garbage, then we’ll see,” he had said back then, when bills for the franchise renewal were still at the committee level.
The Chief Executive would repeat this threat several times. So clear was his position on the matter that a lawmaker admitted no action was made by the House on the pending bills because Duterte had issues with the network.
Then as 2019 was about to end, Duterte publicly advised the Lopez family, owner of ABS-CBN, to “just sell” the network, remarking that Congress renewing the franchise is unlikely.
On May 6, Roque claimed Duterte was now "neutral" on the issue after accepting the apology of ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak. But by that time, the National Telecommunications Commission had already issued a cease-and-desist order against ABS-CBN, causing it to go off air.
The NTC order came after foot-dragging at the House of Representatives, now led by Duterte ally Alan Peter Cayetano and after the NTC promised to issue ABS-CBN a temporary permit to operate.
But Duterte's pressure made itself known another way – through the moves of his appointee, Solicitor General Jose Calida who filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN and even warned NTC against allowing the broadcast giant to operate while its franchise renewal was being deliberated. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.