MANILA – The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday said it would allow broadcast giant ABS-CBN to continue operations beyond the expiration of its franchise set on May 4.
During a hearing of the House committee on legislative franchises, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said they would heed the advice of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to allow the network to operate while its franchise renewal application is pending in Congress.
Cordoba noted that based on the foregoing discussion, there is a sufficient equitable basis to allow broadcast entities to continue operating while the bills for the renewal of their respective franchises remain pending with Congress.
“The NTC will follow the latest advice of the DOJ and let ABS-CBN continue operations based on equity,” Cordoba said.
“We are very comforted by the fact that both chairs of Congress are aligned with the DOJ’s and NTC’s thinking on the issue,” he added.
Cordoba, however, said a “more stable legal environment” could be created if Congress, by a concurrent resolution, would authorize the NTC to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN.
ABS-CBN’s franchise expires on May 4 this year, in the event that Congress and Duterte fail to give their nod on the network’s bid for an extension of its legislative franchise for another 25 years.
The congressional franchise of ABS-CBN was granted on Mar. 30, 1995 but the broadcast operations of the local media giant only started 15 days after.
The Senate has already passed a resolution expressing its belief that ABS-CBN should proceed with its operations while Congress deliberates on its franchise renewal bid.
The House panel, meanwhile, approved a motion to adopt Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and committee chair Franz Alvarez’s letter enjoining the NTC to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to continue its operations effective May 4, 2020, until such time that the Congress has made a decision on the network’s application.
After the House hearing, Cayetano assured that the chamber would conduct the franchise hearing in a fair, objective, and transparent manner.
“After watching the hearing… lalong tama na inuna ang ibang importanteng bagay. Gusto natin tuloy-tuloy ang hearing, hindi circus. Contentious at emotional talaga ang issue (After watching the hearing… we definitely did the right thing to focus on more important issues. We want a continuous hearing, not a circus. The [ABS-CBN] issue is really contentious and emotional),” Cayetano said.
“The only thing Congress wants is to make the right decision,” he added.
Cayetano said he sees no reason yet to shut down ABS-CBN pending its franchise application.
“Second, innocent till proven guilty. As far as we are concerned, wala pa silang (there is still no) violation so there is no reason in this world the NTC should shut them down,” he said.
The House committee on legislative franchises has set the ground rules for the succeeding hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise and reiterated its call for the submission of position papers of stakeholders on the issue until Apr. 15, 2020. (PNA)