MANILA (Second Update) – The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday issued a cease and desist order (CDO) against broadcast network ABS-CBN after the expiration of its legislative franchise on Monday.
In a statement, the NTC said its order directed ABS-CBN to stop the operation of its various television (TV) and radio broadcast stations nationwide that require a valid congressional franchise to operate legally.
“ABS-CBN was also given ten days from receipt of the Order to respond as to why the frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled,” the NTC said.
In a radio interview, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said the CDO, while immediately executory, may be appealed by the company to continue its operation without a valid franchise.
“May mga legal remedies naman (There are legal remedies), so that they can continue operating. Depende sa pag-analyze ng lawyers (It depends on the analysis of lawyers). I think they are studying the matter already,” Cabarios said.
The order, he said, would only affect the physical TV and radio broadcasting stations of ABS-CBN and does not prevent the company from creating content and broadcasting over new media such as digital TV and the internet.
“Yun lang physical facility. Pero maraming platform kasi to air their content (Only the physical facility. They have many platforms to air their content). Only the radio station, yung (the) physical,” Cabarios said.
He said a provisional authority was not granted to ABS-CBN, in lieu of a franchise from Congress, as it has never issued a provisional authority to a broadcasting company without a valid franchise.
While there has been no decision yet on ABS-CBN’s “quo warranto” case before the Supreme Court filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, he said the CDO was issued as there was no legal basis for the continued operation of the network.
In its order, the NTC cited Republic Act No. 7966 which granted ABS-CBN a 25-year license to operate TV and radio broadcasting stations expired on Monday.
It also cited the Radio Control Law, Act No. 3846, which stated that “(n)o person, firm, company, association, or corporation shall construct, install establish, or operate a radio transmitting station, or radio receiving station used for commercial purposes, or a radio broadcasting station, without having first obtained a franchise therefor from the Congress of the Philippines.”
Following its issuance of the CDO, it said that NTC regional offices will implement the closure order in their areas of jurisdiction.
After receiving a response from ABS-CBN, it said a hearing for the case will be scheduled at “the earliest time after the enhanced community quarantine is lifted by the government.”
Earlier, Calida warned that the NTC will be charged with graft should it issue a provisional license to ABS-CBN, saying the NTC has no power to do so.
NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba in March said it would “most likely” issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN “barring a gross violation of its franchise of the NTC rules and regulations.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said the NTC order is immediately executory and may be questioned before the courts.
“(The) CDO is immediately executory but still appealable (and subject to) judicial review by either the Regional Trial Court (RTC) or the Court of Appeals (CA),” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
Guevarra has publicly stated his position that a provisional authority (PA) may be validly granted by the NTC to ABS-CBN during the pendency of hearings into the continuation of its franchise.
“The NTC requested our opinion and the DOJ gave them advice in accordance with law and equity. The congress expressed essentially the same view as that of the DOJ and further enjoined the NTC to issue a provisional authority to ABS CBN. The NTC issued a cease and desist order instead. It must have a very good reason for doing so. Let’s wait for the explanation.” Guevarra said.
Guevarra said existing laws provide that a person who wishes to operate a radio/television station must first obtain a legislative franchise and thereafter a license to operate from the NTC.
He clarified, however, that no law governs the rights and obligations of a person or entity similar to ABS-CBN “which has already been granted a legislative franchise previously and has fully operated for many years, has applied for the renewal of its franchise long before the expiration, but for reasons not attributable to said person or entity, the legislature has not yet acted on the renewal of said franchise”.
“In the present case, the subject company had already been granted a franchise and a license to operate, albeit subject to further deliberations for its renewal,” Guevarra said.
In a statement, ABS-CBN said it will go off-the-air starting Tuesday night.
“This is in compliance with the cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) today that prohibits ABS-CBN from continuing its broadcast operations effective immediately,” it said.
The network that it has been providing comprehensive news coverage on the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and is working with local government and the private sector in providing aid for those in need.
“We trust that the government will decide on our franchise with the best interest of the Filipino people in mind, recognizing ABS-CBN’s role and efforts in providing the latest news and information during these challenging times,” it said. (IA/PNA)