Panelo: Duterte remains hands off on ABS-CBN franchise

Published January 10, 2021, 1:16 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The latest push for the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN network may become “bloody” but President Duterte will continue to keep his hands off the matter, according to Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo

Panelo said the President would not meddle in the affairs of Congress, recognizing that any bill to grant or renew a franchise must emanate from the House of Representatives.

“Palagay ko madugo na naman ‘to pero si Presidente, take it from this program, hindi ho makikialam ‘yan (I think it will be bloody again but the President, take it from this program, will not interfere),” he said during his recent “Counterpoint” program.

“He will intrude into the power of Congress to decide whether a particular applicant will be granted a franchise or not,” the Palace official added.

Panelo claimed that Duterte did not interfere during the ABS-CBN franchise renewal effort last year and will continue to keep his distance this time.

“Of course, sinasabi ng mga kritiko na hindi totoo na hindi siya may kinalaman. Eh talagang wala siyang kinalaman. Desisyon ng mga representatives ‘yan (Of course, critics will say it was not true that he was not involved. But he was not really involved. That was the decision of the representatives),” he said.

Several months since the controversial shutdown of the media network, Senate President Vicente Sotto III recently filed a measure seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN for 25 years.

Under Senate bill No. 1967, the senator argued that ABS-CBN’s wide reach of the network to Filipinos and the advantages of broadcast media called for the renewal of the network’s franchise. The latest franchise bill has been backed by some lawmakers. 

The Lopez-owned network, which came under fire from Duterte for alleged partisanship during the 2016 polls, shut down its free television and radio programs after its franchise expired in May last year. A House committee dominated by the President’s allies voted to junk the network’s application for renewal of its broadcast franchise, saying it was underserving of such franchise grant.

The company has shifted operations to cable channel and online avenues but was forced to let go of thousands of workers following the shutdown.

While he recognized the prerogative of lawmakers to pursue a franchise bill, Panelo disagreed with the argument that ABS-CBN shutdown left some information gaps especially during emergencies or calamities. He asserted that people continue to get news and information from other media entities and online sources.

“Parang hindi lang ako bilib sa excuse. Sinasabi nila na ‘yung proponents kaya bibigyan ng ABS-CBN ng franchise kasi nga hindi nakakarating doon sa mga lugar, ibang lugar, ‘yung mga balita. Parang hindi naman totoo ‘yun (I don’t believe in excuse. The proponents claim that ABS-CBN should be given a franchise because news does not reach other places. I don’t think that’s true),” he said.

“Kung ‘yun ang dahilan mo, hindi valid ‘yun dahil ang dami naman nating channel, networks, hindi lamang ‘yun. Telepono. Lahat ng tao may telephone, tingnan mo Internet mo, nandun lahat ng balita. Hindi mo na nga kailangan ng TV ngayon (If that’s your reason, that’s not valid because there are many channels, networks, telephones. People have phones and can check the Internet for news. You don’t even need television nowadays),” he said.