ABS-CBN to donate Duterte refund for unaired ads

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 27) — Upon the wish of President Rodrigo Duterte, ABS-CBN says it is donating the ₱2.6 million refund that the network was supposed to pay to him for unaired political advertisements during the 2016 elections.

"We will coordinate with the President's office as it relates to his guidance on donating the refund to a charitable institution," the embattled ABS-CBN network said in a statement on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a media briefing said there is no need for guidance. "Just donate it to your favorite charitable organization," he said, addressing the station. 

ABS-CBN said it is "grateful and humbled" that the President accepted the apology they made during a congressional hearing. During a legislative inquiry into the network's franchise woes, ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak publicly apologized for "offending" Duterte when it aired an advertisement that questioned if a tough-talking, cursing politician would be a good fit for president.

Katigbak also disclosed that the network could not find airtime for Duterte's advertisements in 2016 since slots for local ads were limited to just two minutes per hour. Katigbak said ABS-CBN refunded about ₱4 million to Duterte, but got delayed in returning the remaining ₱2.6 million. He said the President's camp refused to accept the delayed refund.

Duterte won the 2016 presidential polls and has since publicly spoken about his ire against ABS-CBN for not airing his political ads. He previously vowed to put the channel and its subsidiaries out of business, even telling its executives to just sell the company.

Malacañang has said the threats should not be taken literally, and that the President has nothing to do with the challenges ABS-CBN is facing regarding the renewal of its franchise.

In a chance interview with reporters on Wednesday, Duterte accepted ABS-CBN's apology, but was silent on whether he will support the network's franchise renewal bid. He stressed that he will not interfere with the pending bills in Congress. He also refused to say whether he will approve or reject a bill passed by Congress granting the media giant another 25-year franchise.