Duterte tirade 'part and parcel’ of media work – Gabby Lopez

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte's tirades against ABS-CBN  is just par for the course for the media conglomerate which has faced down similar challenges in the past, its chairman, Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, said on Thursday, April 6.

Lopez made the statement in response to a question from a concerned stockholder at the firm’s 2017 annual stockholders' meeting, as he sought to ease fears about the fate of the company's looming franchise renewal.

“We haven’t gone through an administration that, at one point or another, has not had some issue with the media in general and ABS-CBN in particular. So it is part and parcel of our work being a media institution," Lopez said.

"Suffice it to say: The way we will deal with these problems will be not in the public eye but privately,” he added.

The stockholder voiced his worries about Duterte's continued attacks against ABS-CBN, in view of the renewal process of the network's 25-year legislative franchise which grants it the right to operate as a broadcasting firm. (READ: Duterte tells 'rude' media: Beware of 'karma')

The firm’s current license will expire while Duterte is still in office.

Lopez downplayed such concern, noting that the company has plenty of time to renew it.

“With regards to the franchise, we are now in the process of registering with the House of Representatives, a process that all media broadcast companies go through. Our franchise doesn’t expire until 2020, so we’re starting earlier," Lopez said.

“I don’t anticipate any significant issues. There is definitely a little political noise but we don’t anticipate any significant problems,” he added.

Duterte had accused ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer of writing "garbage" or "unfair" reports about him and his administration. He referred to reports that, he believed, portrayed the government in a negative light such as the deaths in his war on drugs.

On Thursday, April 5, Duterte accused both media companies of not delivering on their advertising deals with the Duterte campaign team during the 2016 elections.

Internal Ombudsman

ABS-CBN’s Chief Strategy Officer Raymund Miranda maintained the media company's "balanced" reporting.

"From a news and current affairs perspective, we have, and always will be, striving to report in a fair and balanced manner," he said.

While ABS-CBN has faced attacks in the past, Miranda pointed out that the firm has been around for close to 65 years.

He said that while the incident has prompted management to evaluate some risk factors, it has also given it the chance to evaluate its existing mechanisms to ensure objectivity.  

“One of the biggest self-check mechanisms in ABS-CBN is the existence of a network Ombudsman which looks into any concerns of the public or any entity which relates to how we are operating as a news and current affairs group,” Miranda explained.

The Ombudsman, he added, was set up in the 1990s an independent body that reports straight to the board.

“There have been a lot of instances throughout the years wherein the organization has had to respond to the findings of the Ombudsman. That, more than anything, is the mechanism that we would normally be looking at whenever situations like this arise,” he said.

The current situation is also further complicated by the fact that a member of the Duterte Cabinet is a member of the Lopez family and used to head the ABS-CBN foundation until recently – Environmental Secretary Gina Lopez.

Miranda was quick to point out, however, that the firm’s strict policy of self-checking and objectivity means that this will not be an issue.

“Secretary [Gina] Lopez resigned from her role as managing director of the foundation before she accepted the appointment to the DENR. And so, we will be covering her as we will any government official. That’s really how we do it,” he said. – Rappler.com