ABS-CBN boss apologizes, denies network pushes 'own political agenda'

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2020 02:02 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2020 05:23 PM

ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo L. Katigbak appears during a Senate hearing on the company's franchise renewal on February 24, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - ABS-CBN Corp president and chief executive officer Carlo L. Katigbak on Monday said the network was sorry if a 2016 campaign ad offended President Rodrigo Duterte as he denied insinuations of bias, saying the Philippines' leading network "does not and will not have its own political agenda."

Katigbak gave lawmakers the assurance in a Senate hearing after Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, Duterte's former aide, questioned ABS-CBN's decision to release what he described as "black propaganda" that had "maligned" then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. 

The ad was paid for by former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a staunch Duterte critic. It featured clips of Duterte using foul language and making offensive gestures with clips of children asking if what he was doing was right. 

The ad was pulled out after Duterte's camp sought a temporary restraining order from a Taguig court to take down the material a day after it was first showed.

"We were sorry if we offended the President. That was not the intention of the network. We felt that we were just abiding by the laws and regulations that surround the airing of political ads," 
he said.

"Today, we want to make a categorical statement together with our chairman Mark Lopez that ABS does not and will not have its own political agenda," Katigbak said.

Katigbak also addressed the matter that the President had raised several times in publicly declaring he would oppose the renewal of ABS-CBN's broadcast franchise: unaired political ads. 

The ABS-CBN chief clarified that all the national political ads of Duterte in the 2016 elections were aired but some of his local ads worth P7 million could not be accommodated.

He said around P4 million was refunded to the Duterte camp then admitted that the network was “delayed” in giving back the remaining P2.6 million in ad money. The amount "was no longer accepted by the President," he said. 

"On this issue, we acknowledge our shortcoming in our failure to release the refund in a timely manner," Katigbak said.

The issue on political ads was raised during the Senate Committee on Public Services inquiry on ABS-CBN's compliance with its franchise. 

The House of Representatives has yet to hear at least 11 bills seeking to give the broadcast giant a fresh 25-year mandate, with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano saying the matter was "not urgent." ABS-CBN's franchise expires on March 30. 

Duterte has frequently criticized ABS-CBN for its alleged bias, saying he would make sure the company's franchise will not be renewed by Congress.

Last week, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo downplayed Duterte's threats against ABS-CBN, saying the President does not want the network, which employs 11,000 workers, to shut down.

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