MANILA, Philippines – Netizens were quick to slam the National Communications Commission’s (NTC) decision to grant billionaire Manny Villar with the frequencies previously assigned to broadcast giant ABS-CBN.
The NTC on Tuesday, January 25, confirmed that it awarded Villar’s Advanced Media Broadcasting System provisional authority to operate Channel 16, ABS-CBN’s digital TV frequency. It also issued AMBS a temporary permit “for simulcast purposes” over Channel 2 until the analog shutoff in 2023.
Some social media users questioned how President Rodrigo Duterte allowed the frequencies to be handed to Villar when Duterte himself had vowed to dismantle oligarchs. Following ABS-CBN’s franchise denial in 2020, Duterte said that he could “die happy” as it was supposed proof that he had “dismantled” the Philippine oligarchy without having to declare martial law.
Netizens noted that while the President had vowed to fight oligarchs, he had no qualms about having “his own group of oligarchs.”
Another netizen noted that Villar’s daughter, Deputy Speaker Camille Villar was among those who voted against ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.
Some netizens also said that the grant of ABS-CBN’s frequencies to Villar was a “payback” for his family’s support for the Duterte administration.
A report from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism found that P334.8 million of the P375 million that Duterte raised for his 2016 presidential campaign came from big businessmen.
Among those funds, Marcelino Mendoza donated P14.5 million to the campaign. Mendoza was listed as an incorporator, board member, and stockholder of Villar’s Vista Land & Lifescapes, Incorporated.
These thoughts were echoed by Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate who said that Filipinos must be vigilant against “midnight schemes and deals” of Duterte officials.
Journalism professor and Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao said in a tweet that the Villar takeover of ABS-CBN’s frequencies is “shameless” and “anomalous” as some of his family members held government positions: aside from Camille, his wife, Cynthia, is a senator, while his son, Mark, was a former Cabinet secretary until his resignation in 2021 to run for the Senate. Mark’s wife, Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, is an undersecretary at the Department of Justice.
Other netizens criticized Villar for being a “frequency grabber.” Advocacy groups have earlier slammed the Villars for allegedly blocking policies unfavorable to their businesses.
Some even poked fun at Villar’s real estate background to say that the Kapamilya network would be become the “KaCamella network,” a pun on the Villar’s Camella Homes.
Others feared that the Villar-owned network could be used to promote their preferred candidates in future elections, or boost the political ambitions of the Villars themselves.
Here’s how other netizens reacted to Villar’s takeover of ABS-CBN’s frequencies.