President Duterte said he will order the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) not to grant ABS-CBN a license to operate even if it is able to obtain a new franchise unless the company pays its taxes.
Duterte made the statement as lawmakers last month moved to give the broadcast media giant a new franchise, eight months after ABS-CBN went off the air.
In his weekly public address on Monday evening, President Duterte said he has no problem with Congress giving ABS-CBN a new franchise because that is part of their duty.
“Congress is planning to restore the franchise of the Lopez. Wala akong problema doon kung i-restore ninyo (I have no problem if you decided to restore their franchise),” he said.
“Kung ibigay ninyo yung (if you want to give them the) franchise because it is within your power to do it, go ahead,” he added.
However, the President said he will not allow the NTC to grant ABS-CBN a license to operate if the company will not pay its taxes.
“If you say that they can operate kung meron na sila (once they have the franchise), no. I will not allow them. I will not allow the NTC to grant them the permit to operate,” Duterte said.
“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,” he added.
“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 continued.
President Duterte likewise claimed that the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) condoned or wrote off loans worth P1.6 billion in 2006 from businesses of the Lopez family, an allegation that the DBP already denied last month.
Duterte said he may just pass the information he received about the DBP and ABS-CBN to the Ombudsman.
“Para sa akin ang Ombudsman ang pinaka-independent body na mag-solve nito (For me, the Ombudsman is the only independent body that can resolve this),” he said.
“Gusto ko lang magbigay sa kanila kasi pera ito ng tao (I want to give it to them because the people’s money is involved),” he added.
ABS-CBN lost its franchise in July last year, two months after it ceased from airing over free TV. Last month, Senate President Vicente Sotto III filed a bill seeking to give ABS-CBN a fresh franchise. However, the House of Representatives on February 1 archived the bill granting the company a provisional franchise.
President Duterte has denied his involvement in the fate of ABS-CBN’s franchise. The President had threatened to shut down the network after accusing it of not airing his paid political ads during the presidential campaign in 2016.