MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered ABS-CBN to “cease and desist” from broadcasting on television and radio, one day after the company’s 25-year operating franchise expired.
In a Cease-and-Desist Order (CDO) dated May 5, the agency said the network must stop its broadcast operations "due to the expiration of its congressional franchise" on May 4.
It said the network should "stop operating its various TV and radio broadcasting stations nationwide 'absent a valid Congressional Franchise as required by law'."
Listed on the halt order are 42 television stations across the country, including the flagship Channel 2, 10 digital broadcast channels, 18 FM stations and 5 AM stations, including DZMM radio.
The NTC gave the network 10 days from receipt of the order "to respond as to why the frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled."
It cited the Radio Control Law in ordering the network to halt broadcast operations.
"Upon the expiration of RA 7966, ABS-CBN no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise as required by Act No. 3846," it said.
"The NTC Regional Offices shall implement the closure order in their respective areas of jurisdiction. After receipt of ABS-CBN’s response, the NTC shall schedule the case for hearing at the earliest time after the Enhanced Community Quarantine is lifted by the Government," it said.
In an interview on DZMM radio, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said the order is to take effect immediately.
"Immediately executory 'yang order. Hindi ko lang alam 'yung motion for reconsideration will stay the order habang may MR siya," said Cabarios, when asked what would happen if ABS-CBN seeks reconsideration of the halt order.
"Well, naka-clarify ko po 'yan sa aming legal offices dito na it is immediately executory, and that only the remedy is a TRO (temporary restraining order). Kung walang TRO, immediately executory 'yung order eh," he said.
(I have clarified with our legal offices here that it is immediately executory, and the only remedy is a TRO. If there is no TRO, the order is immediately executory.)
"We will get the assistance of law enforcement agencies to implement the order," he added.
The NTC is tasked with regulating and supervising radio and television broadcast stations.
The NTC order comes despite steps taken by Congress leaders to show that they favor a renewal of ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise. Lawmakers have maintained they have the sole power to act on franchises such as that of ABS-CBN.
Earlier this year, the Senate adopted a resolution expressing the chamber’s view that ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiaries should be allowed to operate while awaiting Congress action on its franchise renewal application.
The resolution was turned over to NTC officials who said they were ready to issue a provisional authority for ABS-CBN.
At the House of Representatives where the measure on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal must emanate, lawmakers also said they saw no reason to shut down the network because the franchise application was already being discussed by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.
The committee chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez held a meeting in early March to kick off deliberations on the ABS-CBN franchise bills. It also sent a letter to the NTC asking that a provisional authority be issued to ABS-CBN pending renewal of the network’s franchise.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra was also of the opinion that ABS-CBN may continue broadcasting despite an expired franchise, on the strength of a provisional authority issued by the NTC.
However, Solicitor-General Jose Calida who had filed quo warranto petition questioning the validity of the ABS-CBN franchise was of a different mind. On Sunday, the eve of the expiration of the previous franchise, Calida warned NTC against issuing a provisional authority to ABS-CBN, saying Congress alone may decide on the fate of the network.
Sought for comment, Guevarra cited how the DOJ had given the NTC an advice "in accordance with law and equity" and that Congress had "expressed essentially the same view as that of the DOJ and further enjoined the NTC to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN."
"The NTC issued a cease-and-desist order instead. it must have a very good reason for doing so. Let's wait for its explanation," he said.
NEXT MOVE UP TO HOUSE
Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, meanwhile, said the matter of allowing ABS-CBN to continue operations after the NTC order is "now with the House of Representatives."
"There is a bill seeking to renew the franchise of the media corporation now pending before the Lower House. Now that session has already resumed, I am urging the House of Representatives to act on this matter with due haste," said Go in a statement.
"Upon reaching the Senate and once we have had a chance to conduct our own hearings on the matter, that is when I will decide and vote according to my conscience and the interest of the Filipino people," he said.
Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos, meanwhile, expressed hopes the NTC order would be undone.
"This is definitely not a good news. Especially at this time na maraming walang trabaho (when many are out of jobs. I'm definitely saddened by this development. I still hope that the NTC will reconsider its decision and allow ABS-CBN to operate. I'm hopeful that our President will reverse the order of the NTC," said the actress-turned-politician.