Sun. Jan 16th, 2022

By the Staff

MANILA — Despite a request by lawmakers, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) cannot grant ABS-CBN Corp. a provisional authority to operate (PATO).

So said Solicitor General Jose Calida Sunday on the eve of ABS-CBN’s franchise expiration (Monday, 04 May 2020).

SG Calida said the NTC could face graft charges if it would issue a provisional authority and so with lawmakers, including the Senate as a chamber and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig), who urged in March the NTC to issue a PATO.

“These issuances cannot amend the current law requiring a congressional franchise for the operation of broadcasting networks. Not being separate laws themselves, they cannot amend or repeal prior laws,” Calida explained.

The government’s top lawyer said that the exclusive power to grant franchises is with Congress.

“Although this legislative power may be delegated to administrative agencies through a law, at present, there is no such law giving the NTC or any other agency the power to grant franchises to broadcasting entities,” the OSG’s statement said.

Calida further explained that PATO can only be given “once a congressional franchise has been granted and an application for [Certificate of Public Convenience] is pending before the NTC for approval.”

It may be recalled that in March, congressional leaders claimed there was “no rush to hold hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise since it could continue to operate while bills to extend its franchise are pending in Congress.”

In February, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra issued a statement saying “congress, by a concurrent resolution, may authorize the [NTC] to issue a provisional authority subject to such terms and conditions as the NTC may deem fit to ABS-CBN and other entities similarly situated, authorizing them to continue operating subject to Congress’ eventual disposition of their renewal of the application.”

The following month however, Guevarra made a clarification saying resolutions “cannot be construed as direct orders of the legislature that the NTC is legally compelled to obey.”

Guevarra further stressed that a resolution cannot replace a franchise law.

Calida also said the letter from House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and House Legislative Franchises Committee chair Franz Alvarez, and a Senate resolution cannot be used by the NTC as basis for it to grant ABS-CBN a temporary permit as they only express the sentiments of the legislature.

A legal opinion by the DOJ, which the Office of the Solicitor General is under, could also not be used by the NTC as basis. The SG cited a 2003 Supreme Court ruling which struck down a DOJ legal opinion on a similar matter.

Calida also said that the NTC can only issue an order for ABS-CBN to stop operations.

Calida had earlier filed a quo warranto case asking the Supreme Court to nullify the network’s existing franchise, citing grave violations of the terms set by Congress back in 1995.

He had also asked the high court for a gag order on his office as well as on ABS-CBN and its executives, actors, and employees a report by the CNN PH said. (ia/SovereignPH)

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