MANILA - ABS-CBN, the country's leading news and entertainment company, can still operate past its franchise expiration on May 4 through a provisional permit, 2 former heads of the Supreme Court have said.
Through a provisional authority from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), ABS-CBN Corp. can remain on air while Congress deliberates on the renewal of its franchise, former Chief Justices Artemio Panganiban and Reynato Puno said in separate interviews.
"Hindi naman kasalanan ng ABS-[CBN]. Nagawa na ang lahat ng dapat gawin, lahat ng requirements nandiyan na. Hindi kasalanan ng ABS-CBN na wala pa silang franchise," Panganiban said in an interview with ABS-CBN's Karen Davila on Friday.
(It's not ABS-CBN's fault. They have already done everything. It's not their fault they still don't have a franchise.)
While it's true that a broadcast network must secure a legislative franchise to continue its operations as per Republic Act 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines, Puno said an NTC permit ordered by Congress would allow ABS-CBN to remain on air.
"In between na pinag-uusapan ng Kongreso kung iga-grant o ide-deny 'yong franchise ay puwede namang mag-operate 'yong company kung bibigyan ng Kongreso ng provisional permit," he told DZMM's "Dos Por Dos" with news anchor Anthony Taberna on Wednesday
(While Congress is deciding on granting or denying the company's franchise, it can stil operate when there's a provisional permit.)
With 2 weeks left before Congress adjourns on March 14 for a session break, Puno said lawmakers from both chambers have ample time to come up with a concurrent resolution directing NTC to give ABS-CBN a provisional permit.
"'Yong question ng provisional authority, hindi napakahirap 'yon eh. Hindi naman kailangan mag-conduct ng maraming public hearing. Public hearing do'n sa main question whether Congress would grant or deny the franchise," Puno said.
(On the question of provisional authority, it's not difficult. They don't have to conduct many public hearings. The public hearing should focus on whether Congress would grant or deny the franchise.)
Puno was earlier quoted in a media report that ABS-CBN can no longer operate once its legislative franchise expired in spite of an NTC permit, citing a 2003 Supreme Court ruling on the Associated Communications & Wireless Services-United Broadcasting Networks (ACWS).
Panganiban said ABS-CBN's case is different because ACWS had no franchise when the NTC granted it a provisional permit.
"Every decision is good only in accordance with its factual background. Kung hindi po pareho ang factual background, hindi po pareho ang desisyon," he added.
While Congress has yet to tackle 11 bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise, a House panel on Wednesday asked NTC to issue the media giant a "provisional" permit to operate.
ABS-CBN broadcast network, which employs over 5,000 workers, operates free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM. The whole ABS-CBN Group, including subsidiaries (e.g. news.abs-cbn.com, Skycable, The Filipino Channel, iWanttv, Kidzania) has over 11,000 employees.
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.