MANILA — Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Wednesday told supporters of ABS-CBN Corp that he was "one of you" after he drew flak for urging the public to "move on" from the broadcaster's franchise rejection that put 11,000 jobs at risk and spawned allegations of an attack on press freedom.
Roque said he was once a regular on a DZMM radio program and got his first media exposure from news channel ANC.
"I did say 'move on' but I did say also that I feel for ABS-CBN because I'm one of you. I'm Kapamilya," he said in an ANC interview.
"I owe who I am to ABS-CBN. It pains me that you don't have a franchise. I will not be the 'Pambansang Laway' now if not because of ABS-CBN and I thank ABS-CBN," he added.
A House committee dominated by Duterte's allies voted 70-11 on Friday against granting a fresh license for ABS-CBN, permanently closing its free television and radio services that regulators shut down in May.
Duterte in December said he would see to it that the network is "out" and from early in his term had accused it of failing to air his 2016 election ads. Despite this, his aides maintain the President is "neutral" on the ABS-CBN franchise issue.
The 75-year-old leader said Tuesday he could die happy because he had "dismantled" oligarchs without declaring martial law.
He did not mention ABS-CBN in a video aired by state-run Radio Television Malacañang.
But an audio recording of the whole speech showed that Duterte took a swipe at the network, saying: "Yun namang ABS-CBN binaboy ako. Pero sinabi ko kapag ako nanalo, bubuwagin ko ang oligarchy ng Pilipinas."
(ABS-CBN defiled me. But I said if I win, I will dismantle the oligarchy in the Philippines.)
Duterte was not referring to the Lopezes, who own ABS-CBN, because they are "still up and about," and have retained their power and real estate businesses, Roque said.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.