Sun. Sep 19th, 2021

MANILA — The government may grant ABS-CBN Corporation a provisional authority to continue operating pending the renewal of its franchise through a concurrent resolution of Congress, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday.

“Congress, by concurrent resolution, may authorize the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue a provisional authority subject to such terms and conditions as the NTC may deem fit,” Guevarra told senators during a Senate hearing on the network’s supposed franchise violations.

He said that this is the position of the Department of Justice (DOJ) after noting a gap in the law that could have declared the status of operations of a radio and TV franchisee pending the renewal of its franchise.

In cases of such gaps, he said the equity principle could be applied.

“Equity is the principle by which substantial justice may be attained in cases where the prescribed or customary forms of ordinary law are inadequate,” Guevarra said.

“Considerations of equity have apparently been applied in previous similar situations, all of whom were allowed to operate despite expired franchises as long as the application for the renewal of these franchises is lodged with the Congress before the lapse of their term,” he noted.

He added that the “sovereign power” of Congress to grant a franchise “also includes the power to prescribe the rights of a franchisee applicant pending filing of determination of the renewal of its franchise by the Congress”.

Thus, Guevarra said that such considerations may be extended not only to ABS-CBN, but also to other entities similarly situated.

On the other hand, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said the agency could withdraw a provisional franchise it issued “subject to conditions”.

“We would have to put in the conditions to be stated in the provisional authority that has to be issued. If there are violations of those conditions, then we should be able to withdraw the provisional authority that was issued,” Cordoba told lawmakers when asked if the NTC can withdraw a provisional authority while the franchise renewal is still being heard.

He said the guidelines can also be provided in the resolution to be adopted by Congress.

But when senators objected to this proposal, Cordoba said that “based on equity,” the NTC can check the usual conditions stated mentioned in previous provisional authorities and vowed to submit them for the Senate’s consideration by Wednesday.

Cordoba was likewise pressed by senators on why the NTC has no trouble granting provisional authorities in the past to other entities with expiring franchises, and even has to defer to the DOJ in the case of ABS-CBN.

He said the reason NTC was compelled to seek guidance from the DOJ in the case of ABS-CBN was that in past franchises, “there were no serious objections”.

“In this case, there is even a petition for quo warranto filed by the Solicitor General. We deemed it prudent to seek advice from the DOJ,” Cordoba said. (iam/

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