President Rodrigo Duterte said he would not allow any company to benefit from its franchise unless it had settled its obligations with the government.
“It’s a fad now to have these kinds of shows but yet abandoning their duty to the government. So there will be no opening. I assure you, all franchises will not be implemented. I will not implement them until they settle their full accounts with the government,” Duterte said during a meeting with select Cabinet officials.
Companies can have “a thousand franchises” but they won’t see the light of day “until you come to the government with clean hands,” he said.
While Duterte did not identify which company he was referring to, he made the announcement after Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto filed a bill seeking the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise for 25 years.
The franchise issue is not a personal thing to him, President Duterte said, adding, however, that as the chief executive, he has a duty to ensure that laws are followed especially with firms paying their dues.
And before opening, the President said he wants to have a “very short serious talk” with companies.
“Do not compel me to do something which is not lawful. Just because you give them a franchise, it does not follow that all of their misdeeds in the past are condoned and forgiven,” he added.
Duterte’s call for a company to settle its tax obligations applies to ABS-CBN Corp. and other firms that need a legislative franchise to operate, Malacañang said Tuesday.
“I guess it is a safe conclusion it is also applicable to ABS-CBN but it applies to all those who want a franchise,” Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said at a news conference.
In February last year, the Bureau of Internal Revenue said ABS-CBN had no outstanding tax liabilities.
Critics earlier linked the non-renewal of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise last July to Duterte's previous threats to take the media giant off air over his unaired political advertisements in 2016.
ABS-CBN's franchise lapsed on May 4, 2020. It went off air the following day after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered the company to stop its broadcast operations.
The NTC later recalled the television and radio frequencies assigned to ABS-CBN.
Bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise for another 25 years were filed in Congress this month.
Duterte emphasized that he has no personal grudge against any company, insisting that he only wants firms to pay the correct taxes.
“Just pay the government, and I’ll salute you five times) in full attention. I won’t get angry, I’m the President, over little things that are too personal. But the bigger issue, the bigger picture in the background is your tax obligations. That’s the truth,” he said.