ABS-CBN says sorry to Duterte for airing controversial political ad in 2016 polls

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak apologizes to President Rodrigo Duterte for airing a political advertisement in the 2016 elections which offended the former mayor.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 24) — A TV network at the middle of a franchise controversy apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday for airing a political advertisement of the opposition in 2016 which offended the former mayor.

"We are sorry if we offended the President. That was not the intention of the network. We felt that we were just abiding by regulations that surround the airing of political ads,” said ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak during the Senate inquiry on the network’s franchise renewal.

Duterte's former personal aide, now Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, questioned during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Services why ABS-CBN agreed to air an opposition-funded video which he said was meant to tarnish the reputation of the former mayor of Davao City. The commercial questioned if a tough-talking, cursing politician would be a good fit for president.

A Quezon City court banned the airing of the ad upon the request of Duterte's running mate, now House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

"Hindi mababaw ang rason ng Pangulo sa kanyang grievances against the network. Nasaktan ang Presidente, nababoy ang Presidente. Hindi vindictive ang Pangulo but it is clear that someone went overboard to malign him," Go said. "For me, this is very troublesome. Media networks are supposed to be neutral. Fair reporting, that's all the President wants... Kung masama ka kay Pangulo, mas magiging masama siya sa iyo at kung mabait ka kay Pangulo, mas mabait siya sa iyo."

[Translation: The President's grievances against the network are not superficial. The President was hurt, his image has been tarnished... If you are mean to the President, he will be meaner to you and if you are kind to the President, he will be even kinder to you.]

Katigbak said the network initially rejected the first version of that ad, but it was eventually cleared for airing after changes were made on what the two kids were doing in the video. "Any politician who comes to our station with an ad that is legal and legitimate must be accommodated," he added. "We continue to improve on our shortcomings. We hope we do a better job in the succeeding elections."

"ABS-CBN does not and will not have its own political agenda," Katigbak added.

READ: ABS-CBN franchise to expire on May 4, 2020 – DOJ

Refused to air Duterte’s campaign?

Duterte has been publicly ranting against ABS-CBN since assuming office, saying that the network refused to carry his campaign commercials even if they have been already paid for.

Katigbak clarified why the network could not air some of Duterte's ads. He said the President's camp bought a total of ₱182 million in commercial spots, split into ₱117 million for national ads — which were all aired — and ₱65 million in local ads, which would target audience in a specific province.

"Our policy on all our ads is first-come, first-served. Many of these spots were ordered on May 3, and May 7 was the last day of the campaign period. There had been many previous telecast orders that came in ahead," the company's chief executive said.

He went on to explain that slots for local ads were limited to just two minutes per hour, so the network could not find airtime for Duterte's content by then. Katigbak said ABS-CBN refunded about ₱4 million to the President, but got delayed in returning some ₱2.6 million to his camp. He said the President's camp refused to accept the delayed refund.

Duterte went on to win the 2016 elections.

Senators Migz Zubiri and Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan also said that they have their own ads which did not air during previous elections. "May hinanakit din kami, pero hindi natin dadalhin sa usapin na mawawalan ng trabaho ang 11,000 na kababayan natin," said Pangilinan, the husband of ABS-CBN star Sharon Cuneta.

[Translation: We also have our gripes, but we would not bring that to the point that 11,000 Filipinos would lose their jobs.]


'Nothing illegal'

Meanwhile, Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV believes that there is "nothing illegal" with the "offensive" advertisement he ran in 2016.

"Duterte/Bong Go’s assertion that the airing of my advertisement is the reason why the ABS-CBN franchise should not be renewed is a lie. First, there’s nothing illegal about the ad itself and the airing of the ad," he said in a statement.

He also argued that the said advertisement was also aired in the rival network.

"Second, the same political ad was aired in GMA7 and yet Duterte never complained about it when its franchise was renewed. So, definitely there is another ulterior motive in the blocking of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal," Trillanes added.

Apology accepted

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo welcomed the apology, saying that the President will "consider" Katigbak's statement.

"It's personal to him," Panelo said. "I'm glad finally ABS-CBN admitted its shortcomings to the President. Dapat noon pa nila ginawa [They should have done it a long time ago]."

Duterte has vowed since late 2018 to block the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise. Last year, he told the Lopezes to just sell the network to a new owner as he would make sure that the TV station is out by 2020.

CNN Philippines' Multi-Platform News Writers Melissa Lopez and Vince Ferreras contributed to this report