“We are tempted to thank President Rodrigo Duterte for proving us right about what we have been saying all along, that the shutdown of ABS-CBN was a personal vendetta that a lapdog Congress helped seal.”

This was the reaction of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines after Duterte in his latest address to the nation promised he will not allow the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to grant the network a permit to operate should Congress grant it a new franchise.

“Why else would he rail about ordering the National Telecommunications Commission not to grant the network a permit to operate should Congress grant it a new franchise? And why else would he continue to wave the banner of long ago discredited accusations of unpaid taxes when the proper thing to do, then and now, would be to hale the Lopezes to court if he actually believes these to be true,” the NUJP asked in a statement.

In his latest late night address to the nation, of what should have been an update regarding his administration’s actions to address the pandemic and economic recession, Duterte once again ranted against the Lopez family that owns majority stakes of publicly traded ABS-CBN.

“I will ignore your franchise and I will not give them the license to operate,” Duterte said alluding to the fact that the NTC, which regulates and monitors franchises for broadcast frequencies, is under him as president..

Duterte also likened the granting of a franchise to the Lopezes as “giving them a prize for committing criminal acts.”

He also repeated allegations that the Lopezes unjustly benefited from P1.6 billion worth of loans condoned by the Development Bank of the Philippines in 2006.  He also set the condition that the Lopezes to pay the taxes they owe the government before he will sign any franchise bills into law.

He also previously denied that he had a hand in the denial of a fresh franchise to the network.

However, both the DBP and the Bureau of Internal Revenue said ABS-CBN does not owe them money.  This debunked but rehashed allegations are the subject of a House committee hearing into fresh attempts to give ABS-CBN a new broadcasting franchise.

Though Duterte has the power to veto any law like a new franchise for ABS-CBN, the President insisted that he would not implement the law granting the network a franchise. The NTC, which regulates and monitors franchises for broadcast frequencies, is under the executive branch headed by the President.

The NUJP suspects that Duterte fears that he does not have full control of members of Congress and a congressional veto override may happen once he vetoes the ABS-CBN franchise bills.

“We all know all he has to do to thwart a new franchise is to veto it. Unless he is no longer so sure about his grip on a once subservient chamber and fears a veto override.”

“Perhaps it is not too late for the members of the House of Representatives to salvage their reputations, to prove that they are what the Constitution charges them to be, members of a co-equal and INDEPENDENT branch of government, and no longer the willing accomplices to the continuing siege on press freedom and all our other rights and liberties,” the NUJP said.

“Do what is right, grant ABS-CBN a new franchise, and override any veto,” was the NUJP’s challenge to lawmakers. – Rommel F. Lopez