MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday called on Congress to “act expeditiously” on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal after it was ordered by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to halt its broadcast operations.
Speaking on TV Patrol, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra noted that the shutdown order against ABS-CBN was untimely as the country grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Dahil dumating tayo sa sitwasyon na ganito, quite untimely dahil we’re facing some major problem, the COVID-19 problem. I’m just hoping Congress will now act expeditiously on the matter of the bills pertaining to the renewal of the franchise ng ABS-CBN,” he said.
Citing DOJ’s legal opinion on the issue, Guevarra said the company should be allowed to operate under equitable consideration while its bid for a fresh franchise remains pending.
“Kung ang sitwasyon ay isang kompanya na dati nang may franchise, nabigyan na ng franchise, nag-operate na, nag-invest na, nag-employ ng libo-libong tao, nag-apply na ng renewal bago pa matapos ang kaniyang franchise, pero for reason not attributable to the company, ay hindi pa naaksiyunan ng Congress, ay sa tingin ko, in fairness wala namang pagkukulang ‘yong kompanya," Guevarra said.
"Principles of equity should dictate na dapat hayaan muna magpatuloy ang kompanya na 'yan.”
Guevarra also said he understood the position of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) that a broadcast network couldn’t operate without a franchise.
“Iyong legal position ng OSG at ‘yong position ng DOJ ay parang either way pupuwede rin naman. Kasi ‘yong sa office ng SolGen dura lex sed lex. Talagang the law maybe harsh, but that’s the law, so to speak. So kung wala kang franchise, sorry ka na lang, hindi ka makaka-operate,” he said.
Several bills renewing ABS-CBN's franchise had languished at the House of Representatives.
Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier sought the Supreme Court to invalidate the franchises of ABS-CBN Corp. and ABS-CBN Convergence citing alleged abuses, including supposed violations of restrictions on foreign ownership.
On Sunday, Calida cautioned the NTC against granting ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate, and threatened NTC officials with prosecution if they defy his advice.
The Lopez-led network, which reaches millions of Filipinos through its television, radio and online platforms, said it had not broken the law in its 65-year service.
“We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN,” the company said in a statement.
ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries have more than 11,000 employees.
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.