In House panel report, ABS-CBN accused of favoring Robredo in 2016

Mara Cepeda
In House panel report, ABS-CBN accused of favoring Robredo in 2016
But ABS-CBN denies backing any candidate in the 2016 elections, which saw Vice President Leni Robredo defeat Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and 5 other male vice presidential bets

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on legislative franchises report killing ABS-CBN’s franchise bid claimed the network “clearly favored” then-Camarines Sur congresswoman Leni Robredo in the 2016 vice presidential race – a charge the network vehemently denied.  

The 40-page report dedicated an entire section on ABS-CBN’s alleged biased reporting and political meddling – issues that lawmakers picked apart for 11 hours during the second to the last hearing on Monday, July 6.  

Four days later, the  committee overwhelmingly ruled to thumb down ABS-CBN’s franchise on Friday, July 10, with a whopping 70 lawmakers rejecting the network’s franchise and only 11 backing ABS-CBN.

The panel’s report alleged ABS-CBN aired more interviews of Robredo during an unspecified date 4 years ago as compared to the 5 other male candidates whom she had beaten, among them President Rodrigo Duterte’s defeated running mate and now Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. 

“Vice President Leni Robredo was clearly favored when ABS-CBN aired her interviews during Umagang Kay Ganda, the noon-time report, the 6:30 pm news, and late evening news Bandila,” the report said.  

“Other candidates did not have the same opportunity when their interviews only appeared in Bandila or Umagang Kay Ganda, which have significantly less ratings compared with the 6:30 pm news,” added the report.

The committee report said it will not make a judgement on the biased reporting accusations lodged against ABS-CBN, but advised the network to “carefully examine itself.”

“But this committee encourages ABS-CBN to carefully examine itself, and with humility, try to understand where all the persistent complaints about biased reporting, inappropriate program content, and political meddling are coming from,” the House legislative franchises committee report said.

“Perhaps, by listening to the complaints and assessing itself, ABS-CBN will come to some realizations which hopefully will make it a better media entity, employer, and corporate citizen,” it added.

Cayetano himself had accused ABS-CBN of favoring other vice presidential bets in 2016, yet he decided not to attend the franchise hearings and instead submitted his testimony against the network in writing.

Rappler already sought comment from Robredo’s office regarding the House panel report’s accusations, but she has yet to reply as of posting time. 

Still, the Vice President already slammed the lawmakers’ rejection of ABS-CBN’s franchise and warned it will send a “chilling effect” on journalists nationwide.

Robredo is currently facing an electoral protest filed against her by former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, son and namesake of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. The Vice President narrowly defeated Marcos, Jr 4 years ago. The initial recount of votes, however, showed Robredo’s lead over Marcos even widened by 15,000 votes.

ABS-CBN made ‘editorial, not political’ decisions

ABS-CBN has long maintained they did not place their bets on any candidate in 2016

“ABS-CBN News did not favor any political candidates in its coverage of elections,” ABS-CBN said in a statement sent to Rappler.

“News stories and interviews aired in our newscasts were based on news value and relevance in relation to prevailing issues. These were editorial and not political decisions based on the newsworthiness of the stories,” the network added.

ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak said the same thing when grilled by lawmakers on Monday. The network’s news chief Regina “Ging” Reyes also said their reporters strive to keep their biases in check and correct mistakes as needed. 

ABS-CBN’s life had been in peril the moment it made enemy of Duterte during the 2016 campaign.

The President was piqued after the network aired an advertisement during the campaign period showing clips of him cursing, delivering his controversial rape remarks, and saying he is ready to kill. The anti-Duterte ad was paid for by former opposition senator and vice presidential candidate Antonio Trillanes IV.

ABS-CBN would later explain to senators that it was “duty-bound to air a legitimate ad.”

The network also failed to air P6.6 million worth of Duterte’s ads in 2016 due to lack of air time. ABS-CBN already returned P4 million to the President, but was delayed in refunding the remaining P2.6 million. Katigbak said when ABS-CBN attempted to return the money to Duterte, the President just told them to donate it to charity.

Still, the ABS-CBN president said they also failed to air the ads of several other national candidates in 2016, including Duterte’s closest rival and former interior chief Mar Roxas as well as the latter’s running mate, Robredo. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.