(FEBRUARY 24, 2020) – The country’s largest broadcast network on Monday publicly apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte for its failure to air his 2019 presidential election political ad as senators grilled executives on allegations of franchise violations.
Carlo Katigbak, ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer, said the network does not intend to offend the president when it failed to air his ad and instead used another ad placed by a senator to adversely placed Duterte in a bad light.
“We’re sorry if we offended the President, that was not the intention of the network,” Katigbak said.
“We felt that we were just abiding by the laws and regulations that surround the airing of the political advertisements. ABS-CBN does not and will not have its own political agenda.”
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo welcomed the apology, albeit noted it was overdue.
“I’m glad finally ABS-CBN has admitted its shortcomings to the President. Dapat noon pa nila ‘yun ginawa,” Panelo said in a briefing in Malacañang.
“I don’t know na kay President ‘yun [kung tatanggapin niya]. It’s personal to him.”.
Katigbak said the network returned a total of 7 million pesos worth of political ads after it failed to air the materials but it took too long to return a check valued about 2.6 million pesos.
“We acknowledge our shortcoming in our failure to release the refund on a timely” Katigbak said, assuring senators the network has “no political agenda” in choosing to air an ad from former senator Antonio Trillanes.
Katigbak said the president had bought the maximum 19 minutes worth of spots for national ads—those that are seen nationwide—amounting to 117 million pesos and two minutes of local ads worth about 65 million pesos seen only in specific provinces.
He said all the 117 million pesos worth of ads for nationwide broadcast had been consumed, but the case was not the same in local ads because telecast orders were put up ahead of the Duterte’s.
“Our policy on all our ads is first come first served, and many of these spots were ordered on a May 3rd, and May 7th was the last day of the campaign period,” Katigbak told the Senate inquiry.
“So there are had been many previous telecast orders that came in ahead of the President’s telecast order.”
ABS-CBN was able to initially refund P4 million, before the remaining P2.6 million—which the president did not accept, said Katigbak.
Senator Migz Zubiri said the president was not only politician who had the same problem with ABS-CBNmx sharing his own experience.
Senator Francis Pangilinan alson narrated a more recent experience, when the ads of opposition senatorial slate Otso Diretso were not aired in the crucial final days of campaign period.
Duterte’s ally, Senator Bong Go in the same public hearing questioned why the network was not able to air Duterte’s ad, and instead aired an opposition-funded material “meant to malign another candidate.”
“Hindi mababaw ang rason ng Pangulo sa kanyang grievances against the network. Nasaktan ang Presidente, nababoy ang Presidente,” Go said.
“This is very troublesome. Media networks are supposed to be neutral and impartial.”
Go was referring to an ad where children were apparently asking if a cursing and foul-mouthed candidate is a good example to them, while showing cut outs of Duterte’s controversial soundbytes.
Duterte’s then-runningmate Alan Peter Cayetano was able to secure a temporary restraining order from a Taguig court against the ad.
The network responded it has no political biases and only followed rules and regulations set by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas.
Katigbak also narrated how an earlier version of the ad was rejected by the network’s ethics committee which supposedly showed children doing inappropriate action.
Katigbak cited Section 4 of the Fair Elections Act, which said a political advertisement can be “for or against” a candidacy.
At the end of public inquiry, it appeared the network had not done serious violations on its franchise that wod merit a shutdown but would be liable only for a fine of 200 pesos for every infractions based on a pre-war law.
Even Senator dela Rosa has changed its position to support the renewal of ABS-CBN franchise. (Randell Ritumalta/MM)
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