MANILA (2nd UPDATE)- A House panel tasked with hearing bills to grant ABS-CBN Corp a new 25-year franchise asked Wednesday the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue the media giant a "provisional" permit to operate past its franchise expiration on May 4.
In a letter signed by House Committee on Legislative Franchises chair Franz Alvarez, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba was enjoined "to grant ABS-CBN Corporation a provisional authority to operate effective May 4, 2020 until such time that the House of Representatives/Congress has made a decision on its application" for its franchise renewal.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano also signed the letter, which was received on the same day.
The same provisional authority is sought as well for ABS-CBN's subsidiaries and affiliates -- namely ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., Sky Cable Corporation and Amcara Broadcasting Network, Inc., -- whose franchise applications are also pending.
"Please include in their respective provisional authorities terms and conditions you deem appropriate to protect public interest consistent with applicable laws, rules and regulations," the letter said.
Alvarez told the government regulatory agency that the House panel "has started deliberating" on ABS-CBN's application for its franchise renewal.
"The Committee has instructed all interested parties to submit their position papers for or against ABS-CBN's application within a period of sixty (60) days from February 24, 2020," he said.
Measures seeking to extend ABS-CBN's current franchise were also advanced by legislators, including Cebu Rep. Raul del and Mar, Sen. Franklin Drilon.
The country's biggest media network has been facing threats and attempts of a shutdown from no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.
ABS-CBN executives asserted the company has complied with the law.
At least 11 bills seeking to renew its franchise have languished in the House since July 2019. Cayetano had said that the bills are important but not urgent.
Sen. Joel Villanueva welcomed the move of the House panel to enjoin NTC in granting a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN.
"While we welcome the move of the House which seeks a provisional franchise for ABS-CBN, the process to renew their franchise should continue," he said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
Meanwhile, Senate President Tito Sotto III said the high chamber "could support" the move, but the statement of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno that the network could not operate past the expiry of its current franchise complicates things.
"The SC (Supreme Court) 2003 decision as manifested by Chief Justice Puno is a game-changer. We need to further study and review the implications," Sotto said in a text message.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Puno cited the high court's decision in 2003 on the need for an existing franchise before a corporation can operate.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.
--With a report from Isay Reyes, ABS-CBN News