ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak reiterated that the network did not have a political agenda and did not favor some candidates over the others in past elections.
During the 12th congressional hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise on Monday (July 6), Katigbak told lawmakers that the company treated all campaigns equally and assured that “there was no effort” to prevent the airing of certain candidates' political ads.
He said any failure to air political ads of some candidates was due to the network’s “first come, first served” policy. Even if the ad agencies of candidates had been informed that slots for TV ads in certain programs were fully booked, he said ad agencies still requested to be placed in a queue in case other advertisers withdrew their placements at the last minute.
“Kasi po may mga request galing sa mga ahensya na tanggapin po at kung sakaling may umatras o hindi matuloy ay ipasok na lang nila ang telecast order nila,” he said.
Presidential, vice-presidential, and senatorial candidates from different political parties had unaired political ads. In the 2016 campaign, there were unaired ads for then-presidential candidates President Rodrigo Duterte, Mar Roxas, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, as well as then-vice presidential candidates Vice President Leni Robredo, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Gov. Francis Escudero, Bongbong Marcos, and Antonio Trillanes IV.
Katigbak, meanwhile, has committed to setting up an online system that would facilitate “full transparency” in its sale of political ads in the next election campaign period.
“Assuming that we are on air during the next campaign period, we have already committed to put together an online system for the purchase of political ads so that there is full transparency as to the 'first come, first served' policy, as well as full transparency on shows that are already filled up,” he said.
Katigbak also said the network would deliberate on Rep. Rufus Rodriguez’s proposal to stop accepting ad placements when slots have already been filled.
“Please allow us to give us time to consider your proposal because even the act of denying a candidate, the ability to purchase on a particular program may be considered as biased. But I understand the principles behind your proposal,” Katigbak said.
At the same hearing, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that ABS-CBN has no pending complaints for violating election laws or for not granting equal airtime to candidates or parties.
“The attorney of the law department said there is no complaint filed against ABS-CBN in matters on election laws and violation of election laws,” said Efraim Bag-id, acting director of the Comelec’s campaign finance office.
Bag-id also added that no political party or candidate has filed a complaint against ABS-CBN for being biased or for violating the Omnibus Election Code.