MANILA — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday welcomed the move of the House of Representatives’ legislative franchise committee enjoining the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to grant provisional authority to broadcast firm ABS-CBN Corp. while the renewal of its franchise is pending.
While stressing that the authorization from the House committee “is enough for NTC purposes”, Guevarra said, “a similar resolution from the Senate will provide a tougher armor to the NTC in the event of a legal challenge”.
“It doesn’t really matter if it’s only the house franchise committee who has given that authority to the NTC. from a legal standpoint, that’s substantially better than the mere customary practice or established precedents. but it will be even better if the Senate comes up with a similar resolution,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
The letter was signed by House Committee on Legislative Franchises chair Franz Alvarez, concurred by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and addressed to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba.
“We enjoin you to grant ABS-CBN Corporation a provisional authority to operate effective May 4, 2020, until such time that the House of Representatives/Congress has made a decision on its application,” the letter said.
It also sought to include in the respective provisional authority terms and conditions “appropriate to protect public interest”.
There are 11 pending bills filed in the lower chamber seeking to extend the network’s legislative franchise.
In the Senate, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday filed a concurrent resolution that would allow ABS-CBN Corporation to continue to operate pending the renewal of its franchise.
Drilon filed Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) No. 6 to express the sense of Congress that ABS-CBN “should be allowed to operate under the terms of its existing franchise pending final determination of the renewal of its franchise by the 18th Congress.”
The resolution also urged the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue the appropriate provisional authority to the broadcast network.
In filing SCR 6, Drilon noted that Congress has only eight session days remaining before the franchise of ABS-CBN expires.
Congress will go on a legislative break from March 14 to May 3, whereas the existing franchise of the network expires on May 4.
Meanwhile, Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. filed a bill seeking to extend ABS-CBN’s franchise until Dec. 31, 2020.
Revilla said he filed Senate Bill No. 1374 to “give both Houses of Congress time” to act on the various pending bills on the franchise renewal of the network, and at the same time “address all possible legal consequences” that may arise if the existing franchise of the broadcast giant lapses, if it is not amended.
He cited the opinion of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno who said ABS-CBN would have no more basis to operate once its franchise expires.
Revilla said if the Senate and the House passed SB 1374, there will be no legal question that will arise while Congress decides whether or not to renew the network’s franchise. (iamigo/sovereignph.com/PNA)