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ABS-CBN apologizes for not airing some Duterte ads

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ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlos Katigbak apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte for the network's failure to air some political advertisements during the 2016 elections.

Katigbak, however, pointed out that only P7 million worth of advertisements were not aired, out of the P65-million ad placements that the President's camp ordered.

Katigbak made the apology during the Senate hearing Monday into the television network's application for franchise renewal.

“We were sorry if we offended the President. That was not the intention of the network. We felt that we were just abiding by the laws and regulations that surround the airing of political ads,” Katigbak said.

“Today, we want to make a categorical statement that ABS-CBN does not and will not have its own political agenda,” he added.

He said the network is guided by a first come, first served policy when it comes to advertisements.

“Many of these spots were ordered on May 3 and May 7 was the last day of the campaign period. So there had been many previous telecasts that came in ahead of the President’s ads,” Katigbak said.

He said Duterte's camp made ad placements worth P65 million. Only P7 million worth of ads were not aired. Of the P7 million, ABS-CBN refunded around P4 million.

“Of the P7 million na hindi namin na-ere, we were able to refund approximately P4 million to the President and it was accepted,” Katigbak said.

Senator Bong Go, who questioned ABS-CBN for allegedly airing an anti-Duterte ad, said that Katigbak’s explanation was “unacceptable.”

“Doon sa sinasabi nila na explanation for and against a candidate, it is not acceptable. It is political ads; political ads is promoting a candidate, the candidacy of a presidential candidate,” the senator said.

“Ang issue rito, bakit binigyan ng slot ‘yung black propaganda? Siniraan siya para bumaba ‘yung ratings niya at that time because he was on his way to winning the presidency based on surveys. Hindi naman katanggap-tanggap saamin na tawagin ‘yung ‘political ads’. It was purely black propaganda,” he added.

In the same hearing, a Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) official said ABS-CBN has been regularly paying its tax obligations.

“The company already paid P14,398,464,316.66 (more than P14 billion) in taxes in from 2016 to 2019 except for income taxes last year which will be submitted in April - they are regularly filing and paying their taxes for the past number of years,” said Simplicio Cabantac Jr., who heads BIR’s Large Tax Payers Audit Division III.

Earlier, the network issued an official statement saying that it was cited as one of the top 200 non-individual taxpayers nationwide.

“ABS-CBN takes pride in adhering to its corporate values of honesty and integrity in the conduct of its business. We have no unpaid obligations to any bank or financial institution,” the network said.

The Senate committee on public services, which is chaired by Senator Grace Poe, began Monday its inquiry into the media giant’s compliance with the terms of its legislative franchise.

“Bagama't mas madalas na nagmumula ang mga franchise bills sa Kongreso o sa House, hindi na rin bago na magkaroon ng sabayang pagdinig para sa mga mabilisang lehislasyon lalo na ang mga prayoridad ng Presidente tulad ng budget at Train law,” Poe explained.

(Although franchise bills often come from the House of Representatives, simultaneous hearings to expedite legislation is not new, especially when it comes to priority bills of the President such as the budget and Train law.)

Poe stressed that the Senate has the power to conduct a legislative hearing.

“Maraming gustong pumigil sa pagdinig na ito o kinukuwestyon ang pagdinig na ito pero naninindigan ang Senado sa kapangyarihan nito bilang kapantay na sangay ng gobyerno sa isang republika at demokrasya,” she said.

According to Poe, there are at least six other broadcast corporations seeking to apply for franchise renewal.

“Kasabay din nating tatalakayin ang anim na iba pang prangkisa na nag-aapply rin ng renewal. We have the application for renewal of broadcast franchises of Global Satellite Technology Services Inc., Golden Broadcast Professional, Inc., Gold Label Broadcasting System, Inc., Broadcast Enterprises and Affiliated Media, Inc., Crusaders Broadcasting System, Inc., and Bicol Broadcasting Systems Inc,” the senator said.

She added that the committee will deliberate on the matter without enroaching in the issues covered by the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General before the Supreme Court (SC). 

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