By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
“Vote according to your conscience.”
Malacañang assured lawmakers that President Duterte will neither get angry nor be happy with their votes on the pending bill seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise as the broadcast giant went off-air Tuesday evening.
In an interview over state-run PTV-4, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte was neutral on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, reminding the Congress that it was their job to work on the network’s application.
“Neutral po siya diyan. Huwag po kayong mag-alala mga congressmen, hindi po magagalit, hindi matutuwa ang Presidente kung kayo po ay ipasa ang ABS-CBN (President Duterte is neutral on that. So our congressmen shouldn’t worry because the President will not be angry nor happy if they pass ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal),” he said Wednesday.
“Vote as your conscience dictates. Hinding-hindi po manghihimasok ang Presidente sa inyong desisyon (The President will not interfere in your decision),” he added.
Roque said President Duterte thought Congress should have approved ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal instead of asking the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to grant the network provisional authority to operate.
“Itong issue po talaga ng ABS-CBN franchise, isang issue po ‘yan na unang-una, nasa primary and exclusive jurisdiction ng Kongreso. Ibig pong sabihin, wala pong kahit sino ang makapagbibigay ng franchise sa ABS-CBN kung hindi Kongreso lamang (This issue is primarily and exclusively under the jurisdiction of the Congress. Meaning, nobody can give ABS-CBN its franchise but the Congress),” he said.
“Ang paninindigan ng Presidente, kung nakuha naman po ng Kongreso na magpasa ng resolution na humihingi sa NTC na magpasa ng provisional authority, bakit hindi na lang magpasa ng batas na nagbibigay ng franchise sa ABS-CBN. (The President thinks that if Congress can pass a resolution asking the NTC to give ABS-CBN provisional authority to operate, why didn’t it pass a law renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise)?” he added.
The Palace official said that as much as President Duterte wanted to give ABS-CBN a franchise, only the Congress has the power to do so. He added that Duterte cannot certify the bill as urgent either.
“Hindi naman po ma-eendorso ng Presidente ‘yan as urgent dahil meron nga pong private interest diyan. At talagang hindi po ginagawang certified as urgent ang mga franchise bills (The President can’t certify the bill as urgent because of private interests and no franchise bill has been certified as urgent),” Roque said.
“So intindihin niyo po, kahit gusto po na makapagbigay ng prangkisa ang Presidente mismo, wala po siyang ganyang kapangyarihan. (So please understand that even if the President wants to grant ABS-CBN a franchise, he doesn’t have the power to do that),” he added.
ABS-CBN signed off after airing its last TV Patrol broadcast at 7:52 p.m. Tuesday to comply with the cease and desist order issued by the NTC. In its order, NTC ordered the broadcast giant to stop its operations due to the absence of a valid franchise.
On Monday, Malacañang left the future of the franchise of ABS-CBN to the NTC after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned NTC that they may face prosecution under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act if they decide to issue the provisional authority to ABS-CBN and Convergence.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), however, said in February this year that any radio-TV network may continue operations pending the renewal of its franchise, saying the Congress may allow the NTC to issue broadcast companies provisional authority.
In February, President Duterte said he accepted the apology of ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak for the network’s shortcomings and for unintentionally offending the President. However, Roque said Monday that President Duterte’s sentiments should not influence the NTC.
President Duterte has threatened to block ABS-CBNS’s franchise renewal for their supposed bias against him, especially during the presidential elections. He also accused the network of not returning his payment for his unaired campaign ads.
In February, Calida filed a quo warrant petition against ABS-CBN, invalidating the network’s franchise for supposed violations. President Duterte, however, denied his involvement and said Calida was acting on his own.
Read more: NTC orders ABS-CBN to stop operations