PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte was unlikely to veto a bill seeking to renew the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp., which had been critical of his administration.
Mr. Duterte was inclined to sign the measure, which both houses of Congress have yet to pass, into law, his spokesman Harry L. Roque said at a news briefing on Thursday.
The media company was forced to sign off this week after the National Telecommunications Commission ordered it to stop operating upon the expiration of its 25-year franchise on May 4.
“Unless there is any constitutional infirmity, I don’t think the President is inclined to veto it,” he added.
Mr. Roque insists the President is “neutral” on the ABS-CBN issue.
Mr. Duterte’s government recently renewed his attacks on ABS-CBN, with his chief government lawyer asking the Supreme Court to revoke the media network’s franchise.
Solicitor General Jose C. Calida accused ABS-CBN of using an “elaborately crafted corporate veil” to allow foreign investors to take part in its ownership.
The network allegedly violated the ownership restriction when it issued Philippine depositary receipts to foreigners.
The media network has called the lawsuit “an effort to shut down ABS-CBN to the serious prejudice of millions of Filipinos who rely on the network for news, entertainment and public service.”
Salvador S. Panelo, Mr. Duterte’s chief lawyer, has said that while the President’s displeasure at ABS-CBN might have a basis, he had nothing to do with the lawsuit.
Critics have said the issue of ABS-CBN’s franchise has become both personal and political. Mr. Duterte had openly harbored a grudge against the broadcaster.
In 2017, he accused ABS-CBN of swindling after it refused to run political ads he had paid for during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Mr. Duterte had also criticized the broadcaster for airing news stories about his alleged secret bank accounts. He said he would block the renewal of the company’s franchise if he had his way.
“I will not let it pass,” he said in 2018. “Your franchise will end. You know why? Because you are thieves.”
In February, Mr. Duterte said he had forgiven the network, asking it to donate to charity the ad money it wanted to refund him. — Gillian M. Cortez