Sun. Jul 25th, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Once it gets the approval of the Lower and Upper legislative chambers, President Duterte would surely sign it.

So said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Friday referring to any of ABS-CBN’s 11 franchise renewal bills still pending at the House of Representatives.

“Unless there’s any further constitutional infirmity, I don’t think we would veto, but it depends because it’s still speculative, there’s no bill or law yet,” Roque said during a virtual press briefing on the burning issue.

Roque added that the president is keeping a neutral stance on the matter because the Chief Executive wants to respect the independence of a co-equal branch of government, he said.

“It’s enough that he has cleared the air, he is now neutral as far as the franchise of ABS-CBN is concerned,” Roque added.

Earlier, the Chief Executive issued a statement urging his allies to vote and decide on the franchise bill when the time comes for them to do so and that he would not take it against them whatever would be their stand on the matter.

Roque also brushed aside allegations by some quarters claiming the issue has become political.

“When it comes to political issue, the President has done what he can. He has ordered his allies to be neutral on the ABS-CBN case,” he said in Filipino.

He also added the President may have already moved on from the political advertising issue with ABS-CBN during the 2016 national elections as he already accepted an apology by ABS-CBN chief executive Carlo Katigbak during a senate hearing.  

“If before the President was angry, he had accepted the apology of ABS-CBN and even told his allies to vote according to their conscience,” Roque said.

With regards to ABS-CBN’s workforce of 11,000 workers, Roque explained the labor department has also assured them that they are protected under the law despite the network’s closure.

Malacañang also assailed critics who are comparing the government’s decision to give the green light for the resumption of operations of Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) while stopping ABS-CBN’s operations on the side.

Roque noted that POGOs provide more revenues to the government at an estimated P22 billion a year and employment to about 35,000 people.

“POGOs generate about P600 million a month in regulatory fees alone, P22 billion a year in income and P180 million in withheld income tax,” Roque said.

Roque added that the President should not be blamed for the fate of ABS-CBN, whose congressional franchise expired last Tuesday, 05 May 2020, and should have done its part of renewing it of at least a year prior to that. (ia/

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