Duterte neutral on ABS-CBN franchise vote, Palace insists amid fresh attacks | NCAA Philippines

Malacañang on Tuesday insisted that President Rodrigo Duterte did not influence House members in voting against the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN even amid his fresh tirades against the network and its owners, the Lopez family, during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“Neutral po siya sa botohan sa Kongreso, pero may personal siyang paninindigan, at ipinarating niya po ito sa publiko,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

In his almost two-hour long SONA, Duterte accused the Lopezes of using "their media outlets to battle with political figures." He described himself as a "casualty" of ABS-CBN.

Voting 70-11, the House legislative franchises panel rejected ABS-CBN’s franchise application on the grounds of politicking, the issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts supposedly favoring foreigners, inappropriate program content, tax avoidance schemes, less than exemplary labor practices, among others.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue, however, testified during the franchise hearing that the ABS-CBN has no existing unpaid tax dues. Other government agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have cleared ABS-CBN Corporation of violations during the committee's many hearings.

ABS-CBN has been the target of many of Duterte's tirades, stemming from his political ads that went unaired in the network during the 2016 elections.

ABS-CBN has since apologized for the unaired ads and said that other candidates' ads also went unaired due to lack of airtime available.

Despite this, Roque was adamant that administration allies in the House of Representatives did not succumb to pressure coming from the President.

“Ang pinaanunsiyo niya sa akin, sabihin sa mga kakampi niya sa Kongreso na siya ay neutral,” Roque said.

“Hindi siya magagalit sa kanila kung sila ay pabor sa ABS-CBN [at] hindi sila bibigyan ng special treatment kung bumoto sila laban sa ABS-CBN. Ang sabi niya bumoto ayon sa konsiyensiya, at iyon ang ginawa ng mga kongresista,” he added.

As a result of the non-renewal of its franchise, ABS-CBN is set to lay some 11,000 employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic that already left millions unemployed. --KBK, GMA News

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