Duterte 'does not want' ABS-CBN to close: spokesman

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 18 2020 01:07 PM | Updated as of Feb 18 2020 01:21 PM

Employees and supporters of ABS-CBN network gather in front of Sgt. Esguerra gate to press the government to grant the renewal of franchise and to respect the freedom of the press. February 14, 2020. Angie De Silva, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte does not want ABS-CBN Corp to shut down, his spokesman said Tuesday, despite the chief executive's repeated criticism of the network.

In an interview on ANC's Dateline Philippines, Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the renewal of ABS-CBN Corp's franchise is up to Congress. 

This, a week after the Office of the Solicitor General questioned the broadcast network's license to operate before the Supreme Court.

"He does not want that to happen. It’s for Congress to decide, it’s not his. He doesn’t have the power and even if he has, his power can be overruled by Congress itself," Panelo said when asked if Duterte wants ABS-CBN to close.

"If he has some axe to grind personally against ABS-CBN then he will sue them for it. But certainly he will not [want it] shut down, because he cannot in the first place, ABS-CBN."

The Supreme Court, however, has "jurisdiction and rule" over the Solicitor General's petition, Panelo said.

"Whether or not the alleged violations are correct, that is for the SC to decide," he said.

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Panelo earlier said ABS-CBN could file another application for a franchise renewal should the Supreme Court grant the Solicitor General's petition.

President Rodrigo Duterte has criticized ABS-CBN for allegedly not airing a campaign ad that he paid for during the 2016 presidential campaign. Last December, Duterte urged the owners of ABS-CBN to just sell the company.

Congress has yet to act on several bills seeking to grant a fresh 25-year franchise for ABS-CBN. The company's license to operate expires on March 30, while Congress will adjourn mid-March.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte's staunch ally, has said tackling the ABS-CBN franchise renewal is "not that urgent."