SC to tackle ABS-CBN's urgent return to air plea on July 13

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 11 2020 10:54 AM | Updated as of Jun 11 2020 01:48 PM

ABS-CBN employees and press freedom advocates light candles in front of the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center in Quezon City on June 5, 2020, a month after the network's free tv channels and radio stations went off the air due to the expiration of its franchise. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Supreme Court said Thursday it would tackle in July ABS-CBN Corp's urgent plea to resume broadcast operations, as the shutdown threatened the jobs of the network's 11,000 workers. 

The court waited for comments from all parties involved in the issue and will deliberate on July 13 on ABS-CBN's prayer for a temporary restraining order against the shutdown, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said.

"The case was set for July 13. When I say July 13, call again for July 13. I don't know if the resolution will already be ready," Peralta said in an online press conference. 

"We waited for the comments of the House of Representatives, the lower House and upper House and I think we only received the comments last Monday or last Friday pero (but) the member in charge asked for July 13 for deliberation," he said.

By July 13, ABS-CBN would have been off the air for over 2 months.

The country's top broadcaster earlier said it was losing P30 million to P35 million in advertising revenues daily since the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) forced it off air last May 5 over its stalled franchise renewal in Congress. 

The network's franchise expired the day prior. Bills for its renewal have been pending in Congress for years. 

"If this severe financial hemorrhage is not stopped, ABS-CBN may be constrained to eventually let go of workers, reduce salaries and benefits, and substantially cut down on costs and expenses," the network said in May, when it urged the court to immediately act on its TRO plea. 

The NTC, under oath, earlier told lawmakers that it would let the 65-year-old network operate provisionally beyond the May 4 expiration of its franchise, while lawmakers deliberate on bills that sought to renew its license. 

The commission issued a cease-and-desist order against ABS-CBN after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned NTC officials that they could face graft charges if they issue a provisional license.

The broadcaster has repeatedly said in various fora that it did not violate the law.

Peralta declined to comment on what's keeping the high court from acting immediately on an urgent TRO plea.

"I'm sorry, baka magagalit sa akin mga members," he said.

(The other members might get mad at me.) 

OTHER PETITIONS

The Supreme Court en banc is set to tackle another plea seeking to bring ABS-CBN back on the airwaves, said Peralta. 

Lawyer Paris Real filed on Friday a separate petition that urged the Supreme Court to issue a TRO against NTC's allegedly "void" closure order that deprived ABS-CBN of its right to be notified and give its side. 

The halt order was issued before the network was told to explain alleged franchise violations through a show-cause order, he said. 

Real also asked the Supreme Court to define the powers of Calida's office

Aside from advising the NTC, Calida in February also asked the Supreme Court to nullify the franchise of ABS-CBN and its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence Inc. 

Another plea seeking to block the NTC from issuing provisional authority to ABS-CBN was denied by the high court on June 2 for lack of legal standing by petitioner lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.

SC reminded Gadon to be more "circumspect" in filing cases, saying "he will benefit more from restraint and huge dose of humility." 

Gadon had claimed on social media that ABS-CBN's TRO plea was junked, which the Supreme Court denied. 

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