Duterte’s ‘neutrality’ on ABS-CBN closure ‘hypocritical’, ‘insult to intelligence’ – De Lima
MANILA, Philippines — The supposed “neutrality” of President Rodrigo Duterte on the closure of ABS-CBN “is so much of an insult to our intelligence,” according to Senator Leila De Lima.
“‘Neutral’ lang daw si Duterte (Duterte is just ’neutral’? This bully President not lifting a finger this time? Not even counter-manding either (Solicitor General Jose) Calida or NTC (National Telecommunications Commission), which is perfectly within his powers to do?” De Lima said in a statement Friday.
“Duterte’s hypocritical stance of neutrality is so much of an insult to our intelligence,” she added.
De Lima’s statement comes as presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the President remains neutral on the issue and that members of Congress should vote on ABS-CBN’s franchise “as their conscience dictates.”
NTC ordered ABS-CBN to stop its operations its franchise lapsed on May 4.
Under Republic Act No. 3846 or the Radio Control Law, “no person, firm, company, association, or corporation shall construct, install, establish, or operate a radio transmitting station, or radio receiving station used for commercial purposes, or a radio broadcasting station, without having first obtained a franchise therefor from the Congress of the Philippines.”
But at least 11 bills on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN remain pending before the House committee on legislative franchises.
For De Lima, Duterte’s neutrality reeks doubt because he repeatedly threatened the network that it would not be granted a franchise renewal.
“Inupuan nang inupuan ng kanyang mga alipores sa Kongreso ang panukalang franchise renewal nito,” De Lima said.
(His House allies just sat on the proposal for the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.)
Speaker Alan Cayetano said in February that while hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal were important, the matter was “not that urgent.”
Earlier Friday, Cayetano vowed that Congress will “fix the mess” that others made on ABS-CBN’s franchise.
De Lima then recalled NTC’s commitment during a House legislative franchise hearing in March to grant provisional authority to ABS-CBN as advised by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“Almost every one of us expected that,” De Lima said of NTC’s pronouncement two months ago.
“Then here comes Duterte’s legal hoodlum, SolGen Calida, threatening NTC, a client of his office, against such a grant of provisional authority. He earlier filed a quo warranto petition, his favorite weapon, against ABS-CBN,” De Lima added.
Because of Calida’s warning, according to De Lima, NTC “succumbed” to his word, “in spite of precedents allowing the continuance of operations of entities with expired licenses pending renewal.”
De Lima also pointed out how both the Office of the Solicitor General and NTC disregarded DOJ’s legal opinion.
“Many times, we have been lied to and manipulated by this President. And each time, we let him get away with it,” De Lima said.
“That is our national tragedy.”
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