Duterte won't allow ABS-CBN to operate even if it gets new franchise

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 8) — Even if Congress grants the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN a fresh franchise, President Rodrigo Duterte said he will not allow the National Telecommunications Commission to grant the network a permit to operate.

"Congress is planning to restore the franchise of the Lopezes. Wala akong problema doon kung i-restore ninyo [I don't have a problem if Congress restores it]," the President said in a televised address to the nation on Monday.

"But if you say that if they can operate, kung may ano na sila [if they already have a franchise], no. I will not allow them. I will not allow the NTC to grant them the permit to operate," he added.

Duterte said he will forbid the media giant from resuming operations unless the Lopezes settle their allegedly unpaid taxes. "Kalokohan 'yan. Parang binigyan mo sila ng [That's nonsense. It's like giving them a] prize for committing criminal acts," he said.

Last year, lawmakers denied ABS-CBN's bid for a new franchise, citing various issues including alleged tax-avoidance schemes, the dual citizenship of its chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III, failure to regularize its employees, and biased reporting.

ABS-CBN has repeatedly denied the accusations and maintained it has no outstanding tax liability. The Bureau of Internal Revenue, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission, also said last year the network has been compliant with regulations, contrary to allegations lodged against it.

The network went off the air in May 2020 after its legislative franchise expired. In September of the same year, the NTC issued an order recalling all frequencies or channels assigned to the media company.

Last month, Senate President Vicente Sotto III filed a bill seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise. Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto filed a similar measure in the lower chamber.