MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The chief lawyer of GMA-7 on Monday told a Senate hearing that the broadcast network also aired in 2016 a political ad against then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte that had drawn his ire for ABS-CBN, only to take back her statement hours later.
The negative ad that Duterte critic, former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, paid for aired for 2 days on GMA-7, its legal department chief Ma. Luz Delfin also told a hearing of the Senate committee on public services.
A day after its first broadcast, the ad was pulled off the air after Duterte's then running-mate Alan Peter Cayetano secured a temporary restraining order (TRO) from a Taguig trial court.
The ad featured clips of Duterte using foul language and making offensive gestures with clips of children asking if what he was doing was right.
GMA-7 pulled down the ad before a local court ordered a halt on its airing.
“It was a call, I think, of our marketing department not to air it anymore,” Delfin said at a Senate hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise compliance.
However, a few hours after the hearing, Delfin recanted her statement, denying that GMA-7 aired Trillanes' political ad.
"The political advertisement against then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte featuring minors, which was discussed during the Senate Hearing, was not aired on GMA after it was disapproved by the Network’s internal election committee," she said in a statement.
"I was instead referring to another political advertisement, which was aired on GMA," she added.
Asked for comment, Trillanes' camp affirmed Delfin's latest statement.
"Tama kamo ung statement, the pol ad aired in GMA is different. But it is still a negative ad and actually more hard hitting than the ad with minors," his camp said.
(The statement was right. The political ad [that] aired over GMA is different. But it is still a negative ad and actually more hard-hitting than the ad with minors.)
Trillanes earlier maintained airing the ad was valid.
"First, there’s nothing illegal about the ad itself and the airing of the ad," he said.
"Second, the same political ad was aired in GMA7 and yet Duterte never complained about it when its franchise was renewed," he added.
ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak told senators the network initially declined to air the negative ad that used children, but a revised version was cleared for use after hurdling a review committee.
After a court issued the halt order against the negative ad, ABS-CBN “complied with the TRO that was served on us," he said.
“Hindi lang isang network ang nag-air nito. Ang kaibahan lang, mas mabilis na nag-pull out iyong isa sa airing,” noted Sen. Grace Poe, who led the inquiry.
(The ad was aired not just by one network. The only difference is one of them pulled it out of airing faster.)
"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," Katigbak said.
ABS-CBN "does not and will not have its own political agenda," he added.
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.
The House of Representatives has yet to tackle several bills seeking the renewal of the media outlet's license to operate.
Earlier this month, the government's top lawyer also asked the Supreme Court to scrap ABS-CBN's franchise due to supposed abuses.