Palace claims neutrality as Congress fulfills Duterte threat against ABS-CBN franchise

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 10 2020 05:03 PM | Updated as of Jul 10 2020 05:55 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte. Presidential Photo/file

MANILA -- Malacañang said Friday it has maintained a "neutral" stance on the franchise application of ABS-CBN after lawmakers denied to grant the media giant a fresh 25-year license to operate in what is seen as a fulfillment of President Rodrigo Duterte's earlier promise.

Voting 70 to 11, the House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises voted Friday to reject a new broadcast franchise for ABS-CBN Corp which has ceased broadcast operations for more than 2 months.

Congress, which is dominated by the President's allies, has the "sole prerogative" on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

"The Palace has maintained a neutral stance on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the two co-equal branches government," Roque said in a statement. 

"Much as we want to work with the aforesaid media network, we have to abide by the resolution of the House committee," he added.

Duterte's chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo meanwhile said the executive does not intrude in the affairs of another branch of government. 

"We respect decision of Congress. The Executive doesn’t intrude on the affairs of an equal branch," Panelo said.

"Both sides of the issues have been heard. We leave it to the collective wisdom of the committee apropos its denial of the renewal of franchise," he said.

President Duterte has repeatedly threatened ABS-CBN's push for a new franchise over issues on political advertisements for the 2016 national elections.

On Dec. 3, 2019, Duterte told ABS-CBN that “I will see to it that you are out.” He even said that it was better for the owners of ABS-CBN to just sell the network.

In February, however, the President took a softer stance on ABS-CBN and accepted the apology of the company's President and CEO Carlo Katigbak but clarified that the fate of the company's franchise lies in the hands of Congress.

Regulators forced the network off air on May 5, a day after its franchise expired. This is despite an earlier assurance by the National Telecommunications Office that it would let ABS-CBN operate provisionally while lawmakers had yet to finish tackling its franchise. 

ABS-CBN has denied any wrongdoing, saying the network has never violated laws in its 65-year service.

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