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Duterte 'neutral,' wants lawmakers to vote 'as conscience dictates' on ABS-CBN franchise -Palace

President Rodrigo Duterte is "completely neutral" as far as the franchise issue of ABS-CBN is concerned, and wants his allies in the House of Representatives to "vote as your conscience dictates," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Wednesday.

"Ang paninindigan ng Presidente neutral po siya diyan," Roque said in an interview on state-run PTV-4. "Huwag kayong mag-alala mga congressmen, hindi po magagalit o matutuwa ang Presidente kung ipasa ang [prangkisa ng] ng ABS-CBN."

"Completely neutral po ang Presidente diyan, vote as your conscience dictates. Hinding-hindi po manghihimasok ang Presidente sa inyong desisyon," he added.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN to operate its various television and radio broadcasting stations nationwide after its franchise lapsed on May 4, 2020.

The network's franchise application is still pending in Congress, which, under the Philippine Constitution, has the exclusive right and jurisdiction over legislative franchises.

ABS-CBN went off air Tuesday night, hours after it received the order from NTC.

Roque said although the NTC is attached to the Department of Information and Communications Technology, it is a quasi-judicial body that functions independently.

"Ang NTC nakadikit lang po sa DICT para lang po sa mga polisiya at programa, pero ang NTC po, bilang isang quasi-judicial body, ay hindi po puwedeng diktahan ng DICT," he said. 

"Kung ang Presidente po ay makikialam diyan sa NTC, yan po ay krimen. Ito po ay paglabag doon sa code of conduct for local officials at labag din ito sa anti-graft," added Roque, a lawyer and a former party-list lawmaker. --KBK, GMA News