Palace leaves fate of ABS-CBN to NTC as franchise expires

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 04 2020 02:01 PM

ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center, Diliman, Quezon City. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- The fate of ABS-CBN Corp. lies in the hands of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Malacañang said Monday as the franchise of the broadcast giant expires.

The Palace will wait for the NTC's decision on the warning of Solicitor General Jose Calida against issuing provisional authorities to ABS-CBN in the absence of a franchise from Congress, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.

"Itong bagay po na ito is a matter that must be dealt with the NTC as a quasi-judicial body at aantayin po natin ang sagot ng NTC," Roque said.

(This issue is a matter that must be dealt with the NTC as a quasi-judicial body and we will wait for the response of the NTC.)

The current franchise of ABS-CBN, the country's largest media and entertainment company that operates free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM, expires on Monday, May 4.

The NTC, in a March 16 memo, had said that all live permits to operate and maintain broadcast and pay-TV facilities that will expire during the enhanced community quarantine period will be automatically renewed.

The licenses will be valid for 60 days from the end of the quarantine period after which, the stations will be given 2 months to file for renewal of their permit or license without penalties or surcharges, the NTC said.

Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte cannot influence any decision that the NTC will make on the media company's franchise.

"Hindi naman po pupuwedeng maimpluwensyahan ng ating Presidente ang NTC, desisyon ng komisyon yan at hindi naman po puwedeng pangunahan ang NTC sa desisyon na ito," Roque said.

(The President cannot influence the NTC on its decision because that is up to the committee.)

"Hahayaan po namin ang NTC na magdesisyon at kung ano man ang desisyon ng NTC ipapatupad po ng buong gobyerno," he added.

(We will let the NTC decide and whatever decision the NTC makes will be implemented by the government.)

DOJ SAYS SUFFICIENT BASIS TO ALLOW OPS

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday reiterated that there is "sufficient basis" to allow ABS-CBN to continue operating while Congress has yet to act on bills seeking a fresh 25-year franchise for the company.

"The DOJ (Department of Justice) stands by its position that there is sufficient equitable basis to allow broadcast entities to continue operating while the bills for the renewal of their franchise remain pending with Congress," Guevarra said.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano last week reiterated that lawmakers have asked the NTC to give ABS-CBN and its affiliate companies a provisional authority to operate.

The Senate, for its part, also passed a resolution expressing the sense of the chamber that it wants NTC to issue a provisional authority to the Lopez-owned network. 

Calida, however, insisted the NTC cannot rely on either the Senate resolution, the House committee letter, or on a DOJ opinion as the legal basis for issuance of provisional authority. 

“No less than the Constitution requires a prior franchise from Congress. Hence, when there is no renewal, the franchise expires by operation of law. The franchise ceases to exist and the entity can no longer continue its operations as a public utility,” he said.

The NTC had earlier committed to allow ABS-CBN to operate after its franchise expires on May 4, as requested by lawmakers, who have yet to tackle several bills seeking for a fresh 25-year-franchise for the company.

news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.

-with a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News