Agusan lawmaker supporting ABS-CBN renewal cries foul over ‘unrealistic’ teleserye clip

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) — An Agusan del Norte lawmaker supportive of the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN called out the network Thursday for showing a supposedly “offensive” and “unrealistic” portrayal of his province as a hub of terrorists in a series.

In a statement addressed to the producers of the network’s war drama “A Soldier’s Heart,” Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence Fortun said he was “dismayed” by the portrayal of Butuan as a “hotbed of chaos.”

“As a Butuanon who was born and raised in a city that was and has never been known to be a hub of extremism and terrorism, I am dismayed by the portrayal of Butuan as a hotbed of chaos,” he said.

“The depiction is not only unrealistic, it is offensive because it is destroying the collective efforts of the people of Butuan to promote the Home of the Balangays as a tourist destination for history and culture and a hub of opportunities,” Fortun added.

The lawmaker was referring to a video clip of the fictional series which was posted on a Facebook page showing terrorists passing over an explosive device as part of their supposed terror attack in a market in Butuan. The next part of the clip showed the bombing of the market.

“I urge ABS-CBN to immediately air an appropriate disclaimer, review and reconsider the content and story elements of the teleserye in order not to further besmirch the reputation of our historic city,” Fortun said.

He added that the network should instead “depict the real Butuan” and feature stories about the city in their news programs.

Fortun is a co-author of House Resolution 639 which supports the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise.

The resolution specifically urges the House Committee on Legislative Franchises to report out without further delay for plenary action a consolidated version of eight pending bills proposing for the renewal of the network for another 25 years.

ABS-CBN says sorry

ABS-CBN issued an apology over the issue, claiming that it did not intend to deliberately portray Butuan in a bad light.

“ABS-CBN would like to apologize to Agusan Del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun and the people of Butuan City if the scenes in the TV series 'A Soldier’s Heart' have offended them,” it said in a statement in the afternoon.

“While the incident portrayed in the series was fictitious, there was mention of the city name. We would like to assure them that there was no deliberate intention to portray Butuan City negatively in the show,” the network noted.

“We acknowledge that Butuan is one of the beautiful and peaceful cities in the country,” ABS-CBN added.

In a chance interview on Wednesday after their special session, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano reiterated that they will hold “fair” hearings on the issue starting February and they have “enough time” to cover everything before their session adjourns in a few months.

“We have enough time. Kung 'yung budget na ₱4.1-trillion natapos natin ng isang buwan, yun pa kayang franchise na siguro, sobra, 'yung issues, two, three hearings sobrang exhaustive na yun,” he said.

[Translation: We have enough time. If we were able to tackle the ₱4.1-trillion budget in a month, how much more about the issues surrounding the franchise, two, three hearings are probably exhaustive enough.]

There are only 21 session days left until House adjourns on March 13 for a summer break.

ABS-CBN’s franchise is set to expire at the end of March 2020.

President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly called to veto the television network’s franchise in the past for its allegedly biased reporting against his administration’s war on drugs and for failing to air his campaign advertisements in the 2016 polls.