MANILA – Solicitor General Jose Calida on Wednesday said the grant of a legislative franchise for broadcast network ABS-CBN is solely up to Congress.
“Without a valid and subsisting franchise from Congress, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) cannot allow any broadcasting entity from operating in the country. Noting that the bill renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise has been pending in Congress since 2016. The question we should be asking is, why hasn’t Congress acted on it? Who is at fault here?” Calida said in a statement.
He also defended the NTC’s action to issue a cease and desist order against the network after its legislative franchise lapsed on Monday.
“There is a judicial precedent on this power of the NTC. In a 2003 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the issuance by the NTC of both a recall order and a cease and desist order against a broadcasting entity when it failed to renew its franchise was valid and compliant to administrative due process,” he added.
Calida added that the exercise by the NTC of its regulatory power is in compliance with the rule of law.
“Nobody is sacred. Even a powerful and influential corporation must follow the law,” he said.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) earlier cautioned NTC against granting provisional authorities (PAs) to operate broadcasting services, to ABS-CBN Corporation and its affiliate, ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc., despite the absence of franchises from Congress.
“The OSG has the duty to advise the NTC of what is legal or not. We will be abdicating our duty to the NTC if we don’t advise them of the legal consequences of their actions,” Calida said.
The Constitution requires a prior franchise from Congress before a broadcasting entity can operate in the country.
Without a renewal, the franchise expires by operation of law. The franchise ceases to exist and the entity can no longer continue its operations as a public utility.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said President Rodrigo Duterte has left the matter to the NTC.
“Orders of the NTC are not appealable to the Office of the President but as a general proposition, as Chief Executive, has control over all agencies in the executive department. The manner in which he will exercise this control takes many forms. But in the present case, the President has categorically stated that he will not interfere with the NTC’s orders,” Guevarra said.
Guevarra earlier said a provisional authority from government regulators would be sufficient to allow the firm to continue operations while Congress deliberates on whether to extend its franchise. (ia/PNA)