Duterte thanks ABS-CBN for help in time of COVID-19 pandemic
MANILA, Philippines — Moments after the lights went out and media giant ABS-CBN signed off following a government regulator’s desist order, President Rodrigo Duterte had asked his spokesperson to convey his thanks to the network for its help in the country’s fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told ABS-CBN’s News Channel (ANC) in an interview Wednesday that he was instructed by the President to extend his thanks to the network for its assistance.
The Kapamilya network went off the air in compliance with the cease and desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) pending congressional approval of its franchise renewal. ANC, however, remained on air as NTC’s order does not cover cable news channel.
“He has said that I should thank ABS-CBN for all the help that ABS-CBN has, in fact, extended. I was even under the instruction to enumerate the many things that ABS-CBN has done in connection with COVID-19,” Roque said.
“And it’s in the same light that he has asked in unprecedented manner forgiveness from two of the tycoons that he originally wanted me to file cases against so that they would be behind bars, he said, ‘Anyone who has helped the people in this time of crisis, I will be grateful to,’” he added.
Duterte earlier apologized to Manny Pangilinan and the Ayala clan for his “hurtful words,” a remark that was welcomed by the businessmen.
The President repeatedly lambasted Pangilinan and the Ayala family for their water concessionaires’ alleged “onerous” contracts with the government, tagging the businessmen as the “big fish” in corruption.
“And that is why if he could, he probably would have done something for ABS-CBN franchise but the President is a lawyer. But the law may be harsh, as we said earlier, dura lex sed lex (The law may be harsh, but it is the law),” Roque said.
Duterte had repeatedly vowed to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, citing the network’s failure to air his ads during his campaign for the presidency in 2016.
ABS-CBN apologized to the President and explained that the time limits under the election law prohibited the airing of some of his ads.
The network also offered to return the President’s money, but Duterte declined, saying they should just donate it to a charitable institution.
Duterte also accepted the media giant’s apology and said he will leave its impending franchise renewal to Congress.
ABS-CBN’s franchise expired on Monday with its application for renewal still pending in Congress. Roque said the lawmakers should vote in accordance to their conscience since the President remains “neutral” on the matter.
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