MANILA – Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday urged the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to make good on its promise to give ABS-CBN a provisional permit to operate pending final congressional action on the network’s franchise bid.
“Wala naman sigurong mawawala sa atin kapag nabigyan ng provisional authority to operate ng NTC ang ABS-CBN. Batid naman nating lahat na katuwang natin ang ABS-CBN sa pagbibigay ng tamang impormasyon sa ating mga kababayan habang hinaharap natin itong problema natin sa COVID-19,” he said in a statement.
“There is no question that the law should be implemented at all cost, but we are now in the middle of a war against an unseen enemy. Di natin kailangang magkawatak-watak sa ganitong panahon."
The NTC in March said it would let ABS-CBN stay on air after Congress issued a joint resolution authorizing NTC to issue a provisional permit.
“The advice is, if there is a concurrent resolution already, then we can issue the provisional authority,” NTC deputy commissioner Edgardo Cabarios had said.
Pacquiao said allowing ABS-CBN to operate without a franchise was not unprecedented, because the NTC had allowed this in the past for other broadcasting and telecoms companies, such as Smart Communications, Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp. (PT&T) and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
While Pacquiao said he believes NTC’s cease and desist order was not meant to stifle press freedom, he said it was ill-timed as the country grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pacquiao and ABS-CBN have a long history together, with the network investing in infrastructure that enabled local boxing fans to watch Pacquiao's fights live and uninterrupted.
The MPBL, a basketball league founded Pacquiao, is a block-timer on the S+A channel.
“Hindi ako naniniwala na ang desisyon ng NTC ay may kinalaman sa press freedom dahil may pinagbabatayan namang batas. ‘Yon nga lang, hindi maganda ang timing ng implementasyon nito dahil tayo ay nasa kalagitnaan ngayon ng giyera laban sa COVID-19 virus," Pacquiao said.
“Sinusuportahan natin ang ABS-CBN lalo na’t minsan ay naging bahagi rin ako ng Kapamilya network at hanggang ngayon ay itinuturing pa rin akong kapamilya,” added the lawmaker, a close ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, who had vowed to block ABS-CBN's franchise over a beef stemming from the 2016 elections.
Eleven bills for renewing ABS-CBN's franchise had languished at the House of Representatives since 2014 until the franchise expired on Monday, May 4.
Solicitor-General Jose Calida earlier sought the high court to invalidate the franchises of ABS-CBN Corp. and ABS-CBN Convergence, citing alleged abuses, including supposed violations of restrictions on foreign ownership.
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 existence.
ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries have more than 11,000 employees.
In response to NTC’s order, ABS-CBN went off the air Tuesday night, the second since it was forced to shut down in the Marcos-led martial law.
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.