Duterte accepts ABS-CBN apology, distances from franchise issue

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday accepted broadcast firm ABS-CBN Corp.’s apology over his unaired campaign advertisements during the 2016 presidential elections and vowed not to meddle in its franchise renewal bid.

“Nandiyan na iyan eh (It has been done). I accept the apology of course,” Duterte told Palace reporters in a chance interview at Malacañan.

During a Senate hearing on Monday, ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak said the local media giant was sorry if Duterte felt offended by the unaired political advertisements in the 2016 presidential race.

Katigbak said ABS-CBN is also willing to give back the remaining PHP2.6 million in advertisement money.

Duterte, however, told the embattled broadcast firm to just give the money to “any charitable institution of their choice.”

He also ensured that he would keep a “healthy distance” from issues surrounding the franchise renewal bid of ABS-CBN.

“I tell you, I am not going to interfere. Wala talaga ako (I will not have a hand),” Duterte said.

Duterte also stressed the “critical move” is now up to the House of Representatives because it has yet to deliberate first on the pending 11 franchise bills.

“Fundamentally, really ang decision nasa House ngayon (the decision really is now on the House of Representatives), not so much of the Senate because the Constitution says all of these things must originate from the lower house,” he said.

The House of Representatives has to first approve the bill seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise before the Senate can approve a similar measure.

The bill, once ratified by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, will then be transmitted to Duterte’s office for his signature.

Quizzed if he is willing to sign into law the bill seeking the extension of ABS-CBN’s franchise, Duterte said: “I will cross the bridge when I am there. Maybe I will call the media to help me out. It would be a difficult decision really.”

SolGen can’t be stopped

Meantime, Duterte said he cannot dictate on Solicitor General (SolGen) Jose Calida to drop the quo warranto petition earlier filed before the Supreme Court (SC), seeking the invalidation of ABS-CBN’s franchise.

Duterte explained that he has no control over Calida, the government’s top counsel.

“The SolGen can always announce that there is violation of law. And he’s going to investigate it. Wala na akong ano. Hindi ko masabing (I can no longer stop him. I cannot tell him), ‘Do not do it. Stop it’,” he said.

Calida earlier asked SC to revoke ABS-CBN’s franchise due to its alleged violation of the 1987 Constitution when it allowed foreign ownership of the Philippine media entity.

Under Section 11(1), Article 16 of the 1987 Constitution, ownership and management of mass media shall be limited only Filipino citizens of the Philippines, or corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens.

ABS-CBN’s franchise expires on May 4 this year, in case Congress and Duterte do not give consent for the local media giant to proceed with its broadcast operations.

ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise was granted on March 30, 1995, but only took effect 15 days after its publication — April 19, 1995 — in newspapers. Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos /PNA – northboundasia.com