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Roque insists Duterte did not attack ABS-CBN amid leaked recording saying otherwise

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr. on Wednesday insisted that the denial of franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation cannot be attributed to President Rodrigo Duterte even after the President’s alleged fresh tirades against the network. 

Roque made the insistence after the reported that Duterte, in a speech given in Jolo before soldiers on Monday, said: “'Yun namang ABS-CBN binaboy ako. Pero sinabi ko kapag ako nanalo, bubuwagin ko ang oligarchy ng Pilipinas. Ginawa ko. Without declaring martial law, sinira ko yung mga tao na humahawak sa ekonomiya at umiipit sa tao at hindi nagbabayad.” said its report was based on the audio recording of the President’s full speech given in Jolo. 

The presidential spokesperson said the oligarchs Duterte was referring to were the Ayalas and businessman Manny Pangilinan who owned the two water concessionaires, Manila Water and Maynilad. Duterte earlier threatened to send the water concessionaires to jail because of an existing water concessionaire agreement with the government supposedly disadvantageous to the people.

“I cannot be wrong [that the President was not referring to ABS-CBN]. Documentary evidence would show that it was Congress who threw out the franchise application of ABS-CBN. That cannot be attributed to the President,” Roque said in an ANC interview on Wednesday.

“I am not spinning. I am repeating what the President said, that he takes pride in dismantling them [Ayalas and MVP],” Roque added.

When it was pointed out that the said water firms are still in business and not dismantled, Roque then redefined dismantling and interpreted it as a matter of protecting the public.

“The President was protecting public interest, protecting the public from the disadvantageous agreements with water concessionaires,” Roque said.

Roque then went on to speculate that the Lopez family who owns ABS-CBN might have not done enough for the country unlike the owners of the water firms who donated a huge amount of money during the pandemic.

The Lopez Group of Companies, of which ABS-CBN is a part of, donated P100 million to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in April to boost the agency’s response against COVID-19. The Ayala and Pangilinan group of businesses also donated millions for the government’s COVID-19 response.

“ABS-CBN could have done more. I think that is the difference, Roque said.

Roque, however, did not dispute the Inquirer report revealing the President’s fresh attacks against ABS-CBN.

“I do not have personal knowledge. I was not there [in Jolo],” Roque said when asked if the Inquirer report was wrong.

The President’s pre-recorded speech was edited, and what was broadcast did not include the part when Duterte named ABS-CBN as the oligarchs.

In the aired speech, Duterte boasted of dismantling the country's oligarchy without declaring martial law.

Duterte said these oligarchs have been controlling the country's economy for years.

“Kung mamatay ako, mahulog eroplano, p***ngina, I am very happy. Alam mo [kung] bakit? Without declaring martial law, I dismantled the oligarchy that controlled the economy of the Philippines,” he said.

At a Palace briefing on Tuesday, Roque said Duterte was not referring to the Lopez family, which controls ABS-CBN Corp., when he declared his success in “dismantling” the oligarchy without having to declare martial law.

Roque said then that the President referred to tycoon Lucio Tan, the Ayalas and Manuel V. Pangilinan who earned Duterte’s ire in the past due to some issues.

“Hindi po obvious ‘yun,” Roque said in a televised briefing on Tuesday when told that the President’s speech before troops in Jolo, Sulu targeted the Lopezes.

The House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Friday voted to deny the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corporation, citing violations in its old franchise.

Duterte has made threats in the past to block the network's franchise renewal application.

Roque however said on Friday the denial of the application for franchise renewal was the "sole prerogative of Congress that we in the Executive recognize."

He reiterated that the Palace maintained a neutral stance on the issue despite Duterte’s past grievances against the company, particularly on the unaired campaign advertisements in 2016. —KG, GMA News