PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte declared that he would not allow ABS-CBN to operate again even if Congress grants the network giant a new franchise.
“Congress is planning to restore the franchise of the Lopezes. Wala akong problema doon kung i-restore ninyo (I don’t have a problem if Congress restores it),” he said Monday, February 8.
“But if you say that if they can operate, kung may ano na sila (if they already have a franchise), no. I will not allow them,” he added.
Duterte said that he will not allow the National Telecommunications Commission to grant ABS-CBN the permit to operate.
In July last year, a Philippine House of Representatives panel rejected the bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a new 25-year franchise.
Voting 70 to 11, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises adopted the recommendation of its technical working group to deny the network a new franchise.
Two congressmen inhibited while one abstained.
Duterte said that he would only recognize ABS-CBN’s franchise once the broadcasting company settled their taxes.
“Unless and until mabayaran ng mga Lopez ang taxes nila (the Lopezes pay their taxes), I will ignore your franchise and I will not give them the license to operate,” said the president.
“Kalokohan ‘yan. Parang binigyan mo sila ng (That’s nonsense. It’s like giving them a) prize for their being– for committing criminal acts,” he added.
However, the country’s Bureau of Internal Revenue debunked the network’s alleged tax liability during the House hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise last year.
According to BIR Assistant Commissioner Manuel Mapoy, ABS-CBN has been “regularly paying its corporate taxes for the past years.” The network was also confirmed to have no outstanding delinquent accounts.
Duterte, in his weekly taped briefing, also cited the allegation that the Lopezes benefited when the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) condoned or wrote off loans worth P1.6 billion in 2006.
The issue had been discussed in last year’s House hearings as well, where the DBP denied the allegation.
“There is no loan condonation or write-off involved in the non-performing loans (NPLs) and non-performing assets (NPAs) covered by the banking transactions with DBP of the companies controlled or affiliated with the Lopez family,” said DBP president Emmanuel Herbosa.
Duterte, for his part, admitted that he does not know all the details about the issue, adding that he is planning on forwarding the document he received regarding ABS-CBN and DBP to the Office of the Ombudsman.
“Mayroon akong kulang dito (I am lacking information here) because I am not quite familiar. Ito lang ang akin eh. Dumating sa akin ito in official capacity (This is all I know. I received a document in official capacity). Ang magawa ko lang nito (The only thing I can do) is I think I’ll pass it on to the Ombudsman,” he said.
“Para sa akin ang Ombudsman ang pinaka- independent body na mag-solve nito (For me, the Ombudsman is the only independent body that can solve this),” he added.