Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (File photo)
MANILA – Malacañang on Monday “vehemently” disagreed with claims that the denial of a franchise to ABS-CBN was similar to the first time it was shut down during the term of former president Ferdinand Marcos.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement after Vice President Leni Robredo said history has repeated itself when a House of Representatives’ panel denied ABS-CBN a franchise. The media giant was first closed down in 1972.
“With all due respect we disagree, but we do so vehemently. Alam po natin ang nangyari doon sa panahon ng Martial Law may prangkisa po, ipinasara. Pero ang nangyari po ngayon, napaso ang prangkisa, hindi po na-renew (We know that during Martial Law, they had a franchise but were closed down. But what happened now is, their franchise expired and it was not renewed),” he said in a virtual Palace briefing.
Roque recognized criticism that ABS-CBN shutdown is an issue on press freedom but emphasized the provision in the Constitution which provides that a network must first secure a franchise before it is allowed to operate.
“Kapag ang pamamahayag po ay nakadepende sa prangkisa, kinakailangan masunod din ang probisyon ng Konstitusyon na dapat mayroong prangkisa na nanggaling sa Mababang Kapulungan (If broadcasting depends on the issuance of a franchise, the provision of the Constitution that franchises need to emanate from the lower chamber of Congress should be followed). We beg to differ with due respect to the Vice President,” he said.
He also disagreed with Senator Leila de Lima who likened the franchise denial of ABS-CBN to “Oplan Tokhang”, the government’s operations against suspects involved in illegal drug trades.
“Sang-ayon po sa Saligang Batas ang desisyon, sa tingin ko po, mali iyong ganiyang obserbasyon (The decision was done following the Constitution, I think that observation is wrong),” he said.
Roque stood pat on his earlier pronouncement that the House panel vote is the “decision of the people”.
“Sa ating Saligang Batas ang mayroon tayo ay representative democracy. Ang husga po sa mga representante ay pagdating po ng eleksyon. So, tama pa rin po iyong aking sinabi dahil nakasaad po sa ating Saligang Batas iyan (Under our Constitution, we have a representative democracy. The Filipino people will be the ones to judge their representatives during elections. What I said was correct because it is provided under the Constitution),” he said.
He said there was no use feeling sorry for the fate of the media company, especially since its broadcast could have been utilized to aid the Department of Education’s (DepEd) distance learning initiatives.
“Well, maski po tayo ay manghinayang eh tapos na po ang boxing at dumaan na po sa proseso sang-ayon po sa Saligang Batas, wala na po tayong magagawa (even if we feel sorry, the boxing match is over and it went through the process under the Constitution. We can’t do anything about it anymore). Let’s move on,” he said.
Insisting that the most President Rodrigo Duterte can do is to remain neutral on the ABS-CBN franchise issue, Roque rejected criticism that Duterte’s previous threats versus ABS-CBN affected the company’s application for a new franchise.
“Hindi po, kasi po mapagpatawad po ang Presidente. Pinatawad po niya publicly ang ABS-CBN (No, because the President is very forgiving. He publicly forgave ABS-CBN),” he said.
Last February, Duterte said he accepted broadcast firm ABS-CBN’s apology over his unaired campaign advertisements during the 2016 presidential elections and vowed not to meddle in its franchise renewal bid.
“Nandiyan na iyan eh (It has been done). I accept the apology of course,” Duterte said.
Roque said the shutdown of ABS-CBN operations is a “big loss” since the media giant has the widest reach in the country.
“Mayroon ba hong malaking kawalan dahil hindi nabigyan ng franchise ang ABS-CBN? Aaminin ko po, mayroon po… dahil nawala po iyong pinakamalaking reach para sa dissemination natin (Is the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise a big loss? I admit, there is…because we lost the widest reach in terms of our dissemination),” he said.
Claiming that he considers himself as “Kapamilya”, Roque said it was painful for him since he continues to have a debt of gratitude to the network for broadcasting Palace-related news and information to the public.
“Noong ako po ay naging tagapagsalita, malaki rin po ang naging utang na loob ko dahil number one naman po talaga sa reach ang ABS-CBN (When I became spokesperson, I have a huge debt of gratitude because ABS-CBN is number one when it comes to reach),” he said.
However, he emphasized the need to respect the decision of the House panel as a co-equal branch of government.
“Sang-ayon o tutol man tayo rito, dumaan po sa proseso at iyan po ang naging desisyon ng komite – kinakailangan po respetuhin ng lahat (Whether we agree with the decision or not, it went through a process and that was the decision made by the committee—we need to respect it),” he added.
The 11,000 ABS-CBN workers at risk of losing their jobs, he said, may avail of the national government’s subsidy programs.
On July 10, House Committee on Legislative Franchises junked ABS-CBN’s franchise bid in a 70-11 vote, permanently shutting down a major part of the country’s largest media network.
The network has been off the air since May 4 this year following the expiration of its 25-year franchise. (PNA)