Three days before stepping down, President Rodrigo Duterte admitted to using his powers as chief executive to turn lawmakers against ABS-CBN. This was contrary to earlier claims that he did not interfere in the non-renewal of the broadcasting network’s legislative franchise.
During the oath-taking of newly elected local officials in Davao City, Duterte vented his ire on Maynilad and Manila Water, ABS-CBN, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, among others, which he described in previous speeches as companies owned by “oligarchs.” He said:
“ABS-CBN never paid taxes … Ana kawatan ng ABS-CBN kaya tinira ko talaga sila (ABS-CBN is really a thief that’s why I attacked it). I used the presidential powers to tell Congress that you are dealing with scoundrels. And if you continue to kowtow [to] them, kawawa ang Pilipino (Filipinos would be disadvantaged).”
Source: GMA News official YouTube channel, LIVESTREAM: Pres. Duterte leads oath-taking of local officials and House members in Davao City, June 27, 2022, watch from 18:10 to 19:40
In July 2020, Malacañang said Duterte and the executive branch “maintained a neutral stance” in the application for franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.
Then-presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement on July 10, 2020, the same day the House committee on legislative franchises rejected ABS-CBN’s bid for a new 25-year license, that:
“The decision of the House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises denying the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corporation is a sole prerogative of Congress that we in the Executive recognize. The Palace has maintained a neutral stance on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the two co-equal branches of government.”
Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, On the House resolution on ABS-CBN Corporation, July 10, 2020
(See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte’s past statements belie Roque’s claim that the president is ‘neutral’ on ABS-CBN issue)
In February 2020, Duterte told reporters that he would not “interfere” in the issue when asked if he would accept the apology of the network’s president, Carlo Katigbak, for airing an advertisement critical of him during the 2016 elections.
Duterte said he accepted the apology, then added:
“Truth to tell, I have kept a healthy distance from … It’s now in — that they are deliberating in Congress, the lower House and the Senate. And there’s a plan that they would pass a joint resolution … The critical move is in the House and I tell you I am not going to interfere.”
Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, Media interview of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte … (transcript), Feb. 26, 2020, watch from 0:33 to 1:34
ABS-CBN went off the air on May 5, 2020, after its 25-year legislative franchise expired. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: What’s next for ABS-CBN after losing franchise bid?)
Duterte also claimed that ABS-CBN had been paying real estate taxes only for four hectares of land although it was occupying a 40-hectare property. During congressional hearings in 2020, officials from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Securities and Exchange Commission repeatedly cleared the network of any tax liability.
(See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte makes false claim on ABS-CBN’s tax ‘violation’)
Last March 31, the outgoing president again threatened that ABS-CBN “will never get to go back on air again” unless it pays its supposed tax dues.
Editor’s note: The link to the video recording of Duterte’s June 27 speech in Davao City was inaccessible. It was replaced with a livestream of the same event from GMA News.
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GMA News official YouTube channel, LIVESTREAM: Pres. Duterte leads oath-taking of local officials and House members in Davao City, June 27, 2022
Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, Speech of President Rodrigo Duterte in his meeting with the Filipino community, April 14, 2017
Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the Cine Lokal Grand Launch, April 19, 2017
Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, SPEECH OF PRESIDENT RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE DURING THE PARTIDO DEMOKRATIKO PILIPINO – LAKAS NG BAYAN (PDP-LABAN) PROCLAMATION RALLY IN CEBU, March 31, 2022
Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, On the House resolution on ABS-CBN Corporation, July 10, 2020
ABS-CBN News official website, Duterte accepts ABS-CBN apology over 2016 pol ad, Feb. 26, 2020
Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, Media interview of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte … (transcript), Feb. 26, 2020
ABS-CBN News official website, ABS-CBN to go off air in compliance with NTC order, May 5, 2020
ABS-CBN News official YouTube channel, WATCH: Senate hearing on ABS-CBN compliance with franchise terms and conditions, Feb. 24, 2020
Supreme Court of the Philippines official website, G.R. No. 252119, Aug. 25, 2020
House of Representatives official YouTube channel, Committee on Legislative Franchises Joint with Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability Day 10, July 1, 2020
Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, Talk to the People, Feb. 8, 2021
Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte updates the nation on the government’s efforts in addressing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on April 6, 2020. – Presidential Communications Operations Office, April 6, 2020
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)