Duterte to ABS-CBN: Better to sell the network

MANILA, Philippines – Months before the expiration of the media giant's franchise, President Rodrigo Duterte told ABS-CBN that it would be better to "just sell" the network as he reiterated that it was unlikely that Congress would renew its franchise.

Duterte made his latest tirade against ABS-CBN as he spoke to earthquake victims of M'lang town in Cotabato on Monday, December 30.

"Itong ABS, mag-expire ang contract ninyo. Magrenew kayo, ewan ko lang kung may mangyari diyan. Kung ako sa inyo, ipagbili 'nyo na ‘yan (ABS-CBN, your contract will expire. You want to renew, but I don't know if that will happen. If I were you, I'd sell it)," Duterte said.

ABS-CBN's legislative franchise was approved through Republic Act No. 7966 on March 30, 1995. It is set to expire on March 30, 2020.

In his latest rant, Duterte said that it was about time that the Filipino people "get back" at ABS-CBN, even though it was the Chief Executive who had an axe to grind against it.  He had been slamming the network since the start of his presidency as it supposedly did not air his political ads during the 2016 campaign.

"I will make sure that you will remember this episode of our times forever," Duterte said on Monday, referring to ABS-CBN. (READ: ABS-CBN and its struggle to obtain its franchise)

Several bills have been filed at the House of Representatives to renew the ABS-CBN franchise, but the lower chamber did not tackle them before the Christmas break.

If the bill is not passed and signed into law, ABS-CBN will have to close down its radio and television operations. House committee on legislative franchises chairman Franz Alvarez earlier said that the chamber would tackle the bills in early 2020.

Opposition lawmakers such as Senator Leila de Lima have urged Congress to renew the franchise, saying that doing otherwise would make them complicit in the death of democracy in the country.

Renewed threats 

Duterte's rant against ABS-CBN was part of his usual diatribe against oligarchs he accused of "screwing over" the government.

On Monday, he again threatened to "jail" the Ayalas and Manny Pangilinan, for alleged corruption in their water distribution operations in Metro Manila, which both have denied. (READ: Look back: Duterte's tussles with big business)

Duterte started hitting the water concessionaires after the Ayala-led Manila Water won in an arbitration case against the Philippine government in a Singapore court, which ordered the latter to pay Manila Water P7.4 billion. After Duterte threatened to scrap the 1997 water deal with Manila Water and Pangilinan's Maynilad, both said  they would no longer demand payment from government.

Duterte also lambasted the Inquirer Group on Monday, accusing it of being a "mouthpiece" of the oligarchs. He even "invited" the earthquake victims in the audience to join him in "attacking" the Inquirer office in Manila. (READ: Duterte's target: The Philippine Daily Inquirer)

"Hintayin ko kayo sa Maynila. Sabay-sabay tayo, sugurin natin 'yan sila. Kaya 'nyo? (I'll wait for you in Manila. Let's do it together, lets attack them. Can you do that)?" Duterte said, as his joke drew cheers and laughter from the audience.

In 2017, business tycoon and Duterte's friend Ramon Ang bought the majority shares of the Inquirer Group from the Prietos. (READ: Ramon Ang and his media interests)  – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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