Guevarra: Don't punish broadcast firms for Congress' inaction on franchise

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2020 09:25 PM | Updated as of Mar 09 2020 12:03 AM

MANILA -- Why punish broadcast companies for Congress' inaction on their franchise renewal bills?

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra asked this question on Sunday, following the filing of a petition last week with the Supreme Court questioning the validity of the House franchise committee's letter urging the National Telecommunications Commission to issue a provisional authority to operate to ABS-CBN.

"Broadcast companies should not be punished with stoppage for lack of congressional action on their franchise renewal bills," he said in a text message to the media.

"Note that they are not applying for original franchises but for renewal of what has already been granted by congress. They have already qualified before," he added.

It was Guevarra, through his guidance to the NTC who suggested that Congress, through a concurrent resolution, may authorize the NTC to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate once its current franchise expires on May 4.

He later clarified that the House of Representatives and the Senate cannot compel the NTC to issue the provisional authority, only convey the sense of both chambers.

He explained that the DOJ's position is "not legalistic" but "fair, non-discriminatory, and equitable."

"There is a gap in our radio control, public service, franchise and related laws. Equity thus comes into play," he said.

Guevarra added that in many instances in the past, the NTC allowed companies seeking franchise renewal to continue operating pending action by Congress.

"Better if the House franchise committee affirms the NTC practice by expressly authorizing the NTC to issue a PA. Best if the Senate shares the same sentiment of the house," he said.

Aside from the House franchise committee letter, the Senate also passed a resolution expressing the sentiment of the chamber in favor of NTC issuing a provisional authority to ABS-CBN.

Some experts and lawmakers have raised concerns over the House leadership's lack of sense of urgency and its failure to set hearings on ABS-CBN's franchise renewal bills despite having been filed as early as 2016.

The House franchise committee is set to meet on Tuesday, March 10, to discuss ground rules for the franchise hearings but the House is set to go on a break this week and will resume sessions only in May.