Alvarez warns NTC of contempt if it withholds ABS-CBN provisional permit

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 05 2020 04:17 PM

Alvarez warns NTC of contempt if it withholds ABS-CBN provisional permit 1
Press freedom advocates gather in front of ABS-CBN Corp.’s headquarters in Quezon City as they call on Congress to tackle the bills seeking the network’s franchise renewal on February 28, 2020. Mark Demayol, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The chairperson of the House legislative franchises committee on Tuesday warned the National Telecommunications Commission that it would be summoned to explain why it should not be held in contempt should it renege on its commitment to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to continue operations.

The Solicitor General's "pressure" for the NTC not to issue the network provisional permit to operate "directly challenges" Congress' exclusive authority over broadcast franchises, according to Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Alvarez.

"If the NTC chooses to succumb to the pressure of the Solicitor General, and disregard the commitments they gave under oath, we reserve the right to call them before Congress and explain why they should not be held in contempt," Alvarez said in a statement.

"We have recently been made aware of efforts by the Solicitor General to pressure the (NTC) to go against the ruling of the Department of Justice, which states that ABS-CBN may continue to broadcast while Congress deliberates on the renewal of its franchise."

"We would like to make it clear that Congress takes this matter very seriously...," Alvarez said.

The Solicitor General, according to Alvarez, "should have the decency to give Congress this courtesy to complete the exercise of its power," noting that his committee already began deliberations on the broadcast company's application for franchise renewal before adjourning in March.

He said that enjoining NTC to allow ABS-CBN to operate until Congress finally decides on its franchise application is necessary to give lawmakers "sufficient time" to assess.

The committee would not be "dictated upon" by any agency on the "manner, schedule, and conduct of it’s official business," he said.

In March, the NTC said it would issue a provisional authority to allow ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries to operate until June 2022, while Congress deliberates on the network's franchise renewal bid.

"The power of Congress to legislate is complete, full, and plenary. A legislative franchise is a law and by deciding whether to grant or deny a franchise, it is passing a law and making policy," Alvarez reiterated.

"With the legal opinion of the Department of Justice and the authority given by the House of Representatives, there is no reason for ABS-CBN to discontinue or stop their operations until we make a final decision."

ABS-CBN's franchise expired Monday, May 4.

The NTC earlier issued a memorandum allowing the automatic renewal of expiring permits of broadcast and pay TV facilities during the enhanced community quarantine.

The Luzon lockdown ended on April 30 but the measure was extended in Metro Manila until May 15 to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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