ABS-CBN Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Carlo Katigbak on Monday apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte as he explained the reason why the network was not able to air his political ads in the 2016 elections.
"We were sorry if we offended the President. That was not the intention of the network," Katigbak said during the hearing of the Senate public services committee tackling the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise.
"We felt that we were just abiding by the laws and regulations that surround the airing of political ads."
ABS-CBN has been a frequent target of Duterte's rants, with the President accusing the network of accepting funds from him without airing his political advertisements and instead airing an ad against him.
He had also threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise, which is set to expire in 2020.
During the hearing, Katigbak said the network does not have a political agenda.
"Today, we want to make a categorical statement together with our chairman Mark Lopez that ABS-CBN does not and will not have its own political agenda,” he said, even as he admitted that they were not able to air P7 million worth of ads placed by Duterte in 2016.
He explained that they have two kinds of political ads sold to candidates, the first one is a national ad which is seen all over the country, and the other one is a local ad which is normally seen in the provinces.
He said Duterte placed P117 million worth of national political advertisements and they were able to air 100% of it.
“‘Dun sa local ads nagkaproblema kami because we only have 2 minutes of airtime per hour. In the case of local ads, the President placed an order of P65 million worth of spots of which we failed to air P7 million worth,” he said.
Katigbak said their policy on all advertisements is first come, first served, and many ads had been placed before Duterte ordered his slots.
“Many of these spots were ordered [by Duterte] on May 3rd and May 7 was the last day of the campaign period. So there had been many previous telecasts that came in ahead of the President’s ads,” he said.
“Of the P7 million na hindi namin na ere, we were able to refund approximately P4 million to the President and it was accepted,” he added.
Katigbak said they were delayed in refunding the P2.6 million that was no longer accepted by Duterte. “On this issue, we acknowledged our shortcoming and our failure to release the fund in a timely manner,” he said.
Katigbak said they aired the ads placed by then-Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a critic of Duterte, because it did not violate the law.
“Sa ad ni Senator Trillanes, under the Fair Elections Act, lawful election propaganda shall include for or against the candidacy. That to us was the first reason why our internal committee gave a green light to the ad. The second reason, they felt that unlike the first version which we rejected because we felt the children were performing inappropriate actions or behavior, there was a revised version of the ad that showed the children merely asking questions. It did not violate any of our internal policies,” he said.
He further said under the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) code, they are required not to discriminate any candidate.
“Any candidate who comes to our station with an ad that is legal and legitimate must be accommodated,” Katigbak said. —KBK, GMA News