MANILA - ABS-CBN's broadcast resumption while Congress is still tackling its franchise renewal bid is possible and will be a "test" for the Philippine judiciary, detained Sen. Leila de Lima said Thursday, days after a government agency forced the country's largest media network to cease operations.
ABS-CBN went off air on May 5 after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) sent a cease and desist order despite directives from Congress to allow ABS-CBN to continue to operate while legislators tackle its franchise renewal bid.
"All is not lost for ABS-CBN. There are available legal remedies," De Lima said in a statement.
"[It will be] Another test for our courts," she said.
Under the law, only Congress is allowed to grant or revoke a franchise.
Senators noted there is a loophole in the law on how to treat a media company whose license expired while Congress is still tackling its renewal application.
Several lawmakers have argued that legislative tradition dictates that ABS-CBN should be allowed to operate beyond the expiry of its franchise, similar to how at least 8 other networks were able to do so while waiting for its license approval.
"The ABS-CBN forced shutdown is another abominable illustration of the weaponization of the rule of law to serve personal ends of vendetta and power-tripping," De Lima said.
"It breaks my heart to see that the very same tyranny that caused the gross injustice against me finds another victim and further erodes the democracy that we have worked so hard to build," said the senator who has been detained in Camp Crame since 2017 for allegedly masterminding the production of illegal drugs in the national penitentiary during her stint as Justice Secretary.
De Lima has denied the allegations against her and consistently asserted that she was detained for criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
The senator said it was also up to the House of Representatives to save the jobs of ABS-CBN's 11,000 workers by acting on the network's franchise renewal bill which has been pending since 2014.
"I continue to urge my colleagues in the legislature to put their money where their mouth is and make this happen," De Lima said.
"Tama na po ang salita at magtrabaho na po tayo. Kung talagang sinusuportahan natin ang ABS-CBN, panahon na po para dinggin ng Kongreso ang kanilang franchise renewal," she said.
(Stop talking, and start working. If we really support ABS-CBN, it's time for Congress to pass their franchise renewal.)
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano repeatedly assured the public that the House will tackle ABS-CBN's franchise bill. The proposed measures, however, have yet to hurdle the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.
Some of Cayetano's colleagues blamed him for the "unfair" shutdown of ABS-CBN's broadcasting operations, saying the House Speaker did not do his job.
Cayetano has yet to issue a statement.