MANILA — The House legislative franchise committee's March 10 hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise renewal "appears to be cosmetic and inconsequential," a lawmaker said Sunday.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had said the hearing will focus on the response of the National Telecommunications Commission to his instruction to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate pending the congressional renewal of its franchise, noted Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman.
Under the law and jurisprudence, only applicants with an existing and valid franchise can secure from NTC a provisional authority or a certificate of public convenience and necessity, said Lagman.
"Verily, the NTC has no jurisdiction to grant a provisional authority to ABS-CBN after the lapse of its franchise because the inflexible rule is 'no franchise, no operation'," he said in a statement.
The broadcast franchise of the country's largest media and entertainment network expires on May 4.
Eleven bills seeking its franchise renewal were "not set for deliberation and consideration," while its officers "were not called" to Tuesday's House hearing, said Lagman.
The continuation of the “hearing”, he added, was not calendared on March 11, the last session day before the Congress adjourns for its Lenten break.
"The one-day limited “hearing” on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal... appears to be cosmetic and inconsequential," Lagman said in a statement.
Cayetano earlier said a notice from the House franchise panel was "more than sufficient" for the NTC to give ABS-CBN a provisional permit.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo said this might be illegal "because the NTC cannot give provisional authority if there is no franchise."
Aside from the House impasse, ABS-CBN is also facing a challenge lodged before the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Jose Calida. The government's lead lawyer sought to nullify ABS-CBN's franchise due to alleged abuses like illegal pay-per-view offering and foreign ownership.
The network, which reaches millions of Filipinos through its television, radio and online platforms, said it "did not violate the law" in its 65-year service.
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.