In vow to block ABS-CBN’s return, Duterte brings up already cleared tax avoidance of Lopez kin

February 9, 2021 - 1:04 PM
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On the left: President Rodrigo Duterte from PCOO via Facebook (PCOO/Released) On the right: Photo of ABS-CBN's headquarters (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

President Rodrigo Duterte tried to explain his vow to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise by resurfacing previous allegations on the Lopez family debts which have been repeatedly addressed.

In his nation address that aired Monday evening, Duterte stressed that he will not allow the National Telecommunications Commission to grant the country’s largest broadcaster to operate again.

“I will not allow the NTC to grant them the permit to operate. Kung ibigay ninyo ‘yung franchise because it is within your power to do it, go ahead. Alam mo bakit? Unless and until mabayaran ng mga Lopez ang taxes nila, I will not…I will ignore your franchise and I will not give them the license to operate. Kalokohan ‘yan,” he said.

Duterte also claimed that ABS-CBN had unpaid obligations from the Development Bank of the Philippines.

“Parang binigyan mo sila ng prize for their being — for committing criminal acts. Iyong — ito ‘yung pinagbili ng ano, pinagbili ng Lopez iyong Lopez of Companies kasi maraming utang. So binili nila na lahat — pati ‘yung mga utang, pinagbili ng Lopez doon sa DBP,” he said.

The country’s largest network was denied of its license to operate after 70 members of the lower House voted against its franchise renewal on July 10, 2020.

READ: Final verdict: House committee rejects ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal

ABS-CBN’s properties that were shutdown are its broadcasting and radio networks, Sky Cable Direct and TV Plus channels, and ABS-CBN Regional Network Group.

The closures of these businesses rendered more than 11,000 workers jobless amid the still raging novel coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis.

Alleged violations addressed before

On unpaid taxes

The Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Securities and Exchange Commission have already clarified to the Senate last February 24 that the broadcasting firm has no violations.

“They are regularly filing and paying their taxes for the past number of years,” said Simplicio Cabantac, Jr., head of a unit of the BIR Large Taxpayers Service.

SEC Commissioner Ephyro Luis Amatong also told lawmakers that he was not aware of any ongoing complaint against them.

On unpaid loans

Last January, the DBP have submitted a position paper to a House panel saying that the bank did not condone or write off any loans of the businesses of or affiliated with the Lopez family.

“There is no loan condonation or write-off involved in the non-performing loans (NPLs) and non-performing assets (NPAs) covered by the banking transactions with DBP of the companies controlled or affiliated with the Lopez family,” said Emmanuel Herbosa, DBP president and chief executive officer.

Instead, the DBP sold or relinquished control over the transferred NPAs to the highest bidder at that time.

What the president said last year

In July 2020, when asked about the chief executive’s position about restoring ABS-CBN’s franchise, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that Duterte remained “neutral.”

“The president has said that members of Congress can vote according to their conscience because he is neutral,” Roque said before.

“The position of the president is he is neutral when it comes to ABS-CBN. They apologized and he has forgiven them. He is neutral, vote according to your conscience,” he added.

In February of the same year, Duterte, himself, said that he had forgiven the network for not airing his political advertisements in 2016.

How the public reacted

Following his national address, ABS-CBN once again dominated social media conversations. As of writing, the name “ABS-CBN” reached over 11,700 tweets under its belt.

Filipinos criticized Duterte for his continued tirades against the broadcasting firm and lamented that there are other pressing matters to address.

Some argued that such remarks proved that the president orchestrated the events that led to ABS-CBN’s permanent shutdown.

“Duterte’s soundbite tonight is another proof that he is the chief conductor of all these attacks,” a Twitter claimed.