Broadcast journalist Raffy Tulfo, one of the top three of the 12 elected or re-elected to the Philippine Senate last week, is presenting himself as a possible champion of ABS-CBN, shuttered for the past two years after Congress refused to renew its franchise.
Tulfo also wants libel de-criminalized, with penalties for anyone found guilty of the offense facing only civil sanctions. The Philippines is one of the few countries in the world where anyone convicted of libel can be imprisoned.
In an interview with local media, Tulfo – host of a daily public service radio show – said the Duterte administration shouldn’t have shut down ABS-CBN in 2020 but should have, instead filed legal cases against the station, then the country’s largest broadcast network.
Despite having been cleared by the Bureau of Internal Revenue of tax obligations, President Rodrigo Duterte continues to maintain that the Lopez family-owned network still has unpaid liabilities in the tens of millions of pesos.
Tulfo said that the closure of ABS-CBN resulted in thousands of employees losing their jobs.
He said closing the network was the wrong step as “it should just have been made to pay (their) debts.”
While batting for the return of the network to full operations, the frequencies it used to operate with have since been awarded to allies of Duterte, specifically billionaire Manny Villar and Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.
Tulfo said the senators should vote on the issue to determine if it is still possible to return those frequencies to the network, which was originally shut down at the onset of martial law, re-opened by the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino, then closed a second time by the Duterte administration two years ago.
Another option according to Tulfo is for the network to be granted a fresh franchise but with different frequencies.
ABS-CBN, however, continues to operate its online station as well as its cable stations, and has been generating profits from these other forms of media.
In seeking the permanent closure of ABS-CBN, President Duterte admitted that he was angry at the network for receiving payment then not airing his advertisements during the late stages of the 2016 presidential elections.
In his planned bid to de-criminalize libel, Tulfo said he would review past bills calling for the same which were never acted upon by the bicameral Congress.
He said he would have to file his own bill “right away” if the previously filed libel de-criminalization bills could not be acted on.
Another of his planned legislation is to propose a bill that would make domestic violence a “genderless crime.” He noted that domestic violence works both ways but is generally interpreted to mean violence committed by husbands against their wives or partners.
Tulfo said he has reported multiple cases of women committing domestic violence against men in his radio program.
Regarding his plans once he takes his oath as senator and the next Congress convenes, Tulfo said he plans to join the majority bloc in the Senate as this would give him a better opportunity to push for his advocacies.
Tulfo ran as an independent but was adopted by the tandem of Ping Lacson and Tito Sotto, who ran for president and vice-president, respectively.
The new senator is a member of the famous – some say infamous – Tulfo clan of media practitioners. Ramon Tulfo is the eldest of the siblings, including Ben, Erwin and Raffy. Their sister Wanda was formerly Tourism secretary under the Duterte administration.
Ramon Tulfo was formerly President Duterte’s special representative to China. He is best known as being one of the most sued journalists in the country.
The male siblings have often publicly feuded among themselves for a variety of reasons.