Duterte eyes reassignment of ABS-CBN’s radio frequencies; again accuses firm of unpaid taxes
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday that he would reassign radio frequencies that were held by ABS-CBN Corp. while again accusing the former television giant of owing the government “billions in taxes,” contrary to the assessment of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
During his final State of the Nation Address, the President continued his feud with the media group owned by the influential Lopez family.
“I will give [the frequencies] to a Filipino who wants to do good and pay [taxes],” Duterte said in Filipino without elaborating.
The National Telecommunications Commission had issued an order on Sept. 9, 2020, recalling ABS-CBN’s broadcast frequencies because it lacked a franchise to use the spectrum.
The SONA comes a year after Duterte’s allies in the House of Representatives killed its bid for a new franchise, triggering the shut down of ABS-CBN’s free-to-air broadcasts and the layoff of thousands of employees.
On Monday, Duterte also accused ABS-CBN of unpaid taxes. This was even after BIR assistant commissioner Manuel Mapoy said during a hearing before lawmakers on July 1, 2020, that the company had no delinquent accounts and had been regularly paying its taxes.
The President also said ABS-CBN was cheating the government of real property tax collections, backing this up with an erroneous claim the company’s headquarters in Quezon City was 10 times its actual size.
“So they are paying four hectares in property taxes,” Duterte said in Filipino. “But they are supposed to be occupying 40 hectares for that complex there. But on paper, they say four hectares. That is all they are paying.”
ABS-CBN’s headquarters sits on a 44,000 square meter or 4.4-hectare property along Mother Ignacia Street in Quezon City, based on its regulatory filings submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission and Philippine Stock Exchange.
The complex also contains equipment, including its 650-foot transmission tower, which are valuable to entities seeking to enter the television broadcast business.
In fact, Duterte’s allies in Congress continue to pursue the company’s land assets and equipment, questioning how the Lopez family recovered these after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was toppled by the People Power revolt in 1986.
Duterte said on Monday his attacks against ABS-CBN were not personal and that he “never wanted to appear vindictive.”
This was contrary to his previous public statements saying he would block the company’s franchise renewal for alleged bias in its news reporting.
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