VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte's past statements belie Roque's claim that the president is 'neutral' on ABS-CBN issue

Read this fact check in Filipino

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque repeated the false claim of his predecessor Salvador Panelo that President Rodrigo Duterte has remained "neutral" on ABS-CBN's franchise renewal.

STATEMENT

Minutes after the House committee on legislative franchises voted 70-11 to deny the application of ABS-CBN for a new 25-year franchise, Roque issued a statement on his office’s official Facebook page, saying:

“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: Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, On the House Resolution on ABS-CBN Corporation, July 10, 2020

When interviewed on DZBB radio minutes later, Roque was told that Malacanang may have influenced the congressmen’s vote, to which he said:

“Ina-assure ko po kayo na ang Presidente ay mula noong humingi ng patawad ang ABS-CBN ay naging neutral: Wala po siyang tinawagan, wala po siyang sinabihan to vote either way. Ang sabi niya sa akin, sabihin mo sa mga kaalyado natin neutral tayo, hindi ko sila papaboran, hindi ko sila pagagalitan either way kung paano sila bumoto.

(I assure you that the president, ever since ABS-CBN apologized, has become neutral. He called no one, and did not ask anyone to vote either way. He only told me to tell our allies that ‘we are neutral, I am not favoring them, I will not scold them either way they vote.)”

Source: GMA News Youtube, Dobol B Sa News TV Livestream, July 10, 2020, watch from 10:45:46 to 10:46:08

FACT

Duterte has been taking jabs at ABS-CBN since 2017 when he threatened to block the company's franchise after accusing it of "swindling." (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte statements belie Panelo’s claim that the president ‘does not want’ ABS-CBN to shut down)


In a chance interview in April 2017, he said:

“You are engaged in swindling. For all you know, ilang kumpanya dito na nagbayad na hindi ninyo pinalabas (many companies here have paid [for an ad that] {ABS-CBN} did not air).”

Source: Rappler, Duterte to block renewal of ABS-CBN franchise, April 27, 2017, watch from 0:52 to 1:10

While saying in a speech in August 2018 that he will “never intervene” in the franchise renewal, the president also said: “If I had my way, I will not give it (franchise) back to you.” In another speech in December the following year, Duterte accused the network of being a “mouthpiece” of the opposition and said he will “see to it” that it is “out.”

Before the end of 2019, the president urged the owners of ABS-CBN to just “sell” the network:

“Itong ABS, mag-expire ang contract ninyo, mag-renew kayo, ewan ko lang kung anong mangyari sa inyo. Ako pa sa ’yo, ipagbili niyo na ‘yan. Kasi ang Pilipino ngayon lang makaganti sa inyong kalokohan. And I will make sure that you will remember this episode of our times forever.

(This [ABS-CBN], your contract is about to expire. I just don’t know what will happen with your renewal. If I were you, I’ll sell the company because it is only now that Filipinos can get back at you for all your foolishness..)”

Source: RTVMalacanang, Visit to the Earthquake Victims in M'lang, Cotabato (Speech), Dec. 30, 2019, watch from 41:31 to 42:05

Two months later, during the Senate hearing on the franchise renewal, ABS-CBN president Carlo Katigbak apologized on behalf of the network to Duterte for having offended him when it aired the controversial political ad placed by then Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a staunch critic of the administration.

The ad -- which Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said “humiliated” and “hurt” the feelings of the president -- shows then presidential candidate Duterte cursing and making inappropriate gestures and remarks, to which children ask if he sets a good example.

Duterte subsequently accepted Katigbak’s apology and said he was leaving the decision on the franchise renewal to Congress.

On July 10, after 12 hearings that lasted for hours on issues hounding the renewal of ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise, the House panel rejected it with 70 votes in favor of a resolution to deny it and 11 votes against, with 2 inhibitions and 1 abstention.

The network that employs at least 11,000 people was issued a cease and desist order on May 5 by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), a day after its franchise expired. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: NTC backpedals on ABS-CBN franchise)

The NTC, the government agency in charge of regulating and supervising telecommunication companies in the Philippines, also released two separate orders on June 30 stopping ABS-CBN shows from broadcasting on its subsidiaries ABS-CBN TV Plus and Sky Cable Direct subscribers.


Sources

House of Representatives Official Youtube, Comm on Legislative Franchises Joint with Comm on Good Government and Public Accountability Day 14, July 10, 2020

Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, On the House resolution on ABS-CBN Corporation, July 10, 2020

GMA News Youtube, Dobol B Sa News TV Livestream, July 10, 2020,

Rappler Youtube, Duterte to block renewal of ABS-CBN franchise, April 27, 2017

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte During the Inauguration of Northern Mindanao Wellness and Reintegration Center, Aug. 3, 2018

RTVMalacanang Youtube, Oath-taking of the Newly Appointed Officials (Speech), Dec. 3, 2019

RTVMalacanang Youtube, Visit to the Earthquake Victims in M'lang, Cotabato (Speech), Dec. 30, 2019

Inquirer.net Youtube, ABS-CBN’s Katigbak: We’re sorry if we offended the President, Feb. 24, 2020

Senate of the Philippines, Press Release: Bong Go confronts ABS-CBN for airing 'black propaganda' against PRRD; network issues apology, Feb. 24, 2020

Manila Bulletin Online Youtube, President Duterte accepts the apology of ABS-CBN President Carlo Katigbak, Feb. 26, 2020

House of Representatives Official Youtube, Comm on Legislative Franchises Joint with Comm on Good Government and Public Accountability Day 14, July 10, 2020

Philippine Board of Investments, RA 7925 – Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines, Feb. 20, 2018

ABS-CBN News, NTC orders ABS-CBN to stop TVPlus in Metro Manila, SKY Direct, June 30, 2020

Rappler, NTC shuts down ABS-CBN's Sky Direct, TV Plus channels, June 30, 2020

Philstar, NTC stops ABS-CBN’s TVPlus shows, Sky Direct, July 1, 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.)

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