MANILA - Senator Grace Poe on Thursday said they were blindsided by the National Telecommunications Commission's cease and desist order against ABS-CBN after the agency already agree to provide a provisional authority after the network's franchise expired.
"We were all blindsided by the order of the National Telecommunications Commission because it was against their pronouncement when they were in the Senate. At that time, it was quite clear that based on precedence and based also on what the Department of Justice had said, meaning there should be equity in the gap of the law, that the NTC can really go ahead and give a provisional authority to operate," Poe said on ANC's Headstart.
Poe said the NTC had issued provisional authorities to other companies whose franchises have expired but have had their renewal lodged in either Congress or the Senate.
"Clearly, it confuses us why now is the NTC having this position? Either, they were duplicitous and deceitful in the hearings or they were pressured by the letter of SolGen [Jose] Calida," she said.
Last week, the Office of the Solicitor General warned the NTC against issuing provisional authority to ABS-CBN and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., while lawmakers have yet to tackle the renewal of their franchise which expired on May 4.
"I, myself can’t understand why the Solicitor General who is supposed to be defending a government agency is in fact the one pressuring a government agency and threatening a case against it," said Poe.
The Kapamilya network is facing a quo warranto challenge filed by Calida before the Supreme Court. Calida is seeking to nullify ABS-CBN's current franchise due to alleged abuses like illegal pay-per-view offering and foreign ownership.
The network said it has not violated the law in its 65 years of service.
Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Franchises, said the NTC earlier issued a memorandum on automatic renewal of expiring permits of broadcast and pay-TV facilities during the enhanced community quarantine.
"Granted that they did not specify franchises, but that’s clearly the point. At this time when we're experiencing this pandemic and focus should be on mass testing, fighting the coronavirus, the timing of this is really suspect," she said.
She added, "Although franchises are given by congressional grace, the basis of this is still public service. What public service is being provided? Number 1, Information. Members of media are frontliners. They are the ones that cover what’s happening in society. They’re helping the government explain regulations of this ECQ and aside from that, ABS-CBN is also providing jobs to 11,000 people."
Poe said NTC's move is a wake-up call and urged colleagues in the Lower House to act quickly on the issue.
"With the Congressional fiat, with an enjoiner from Congress, with the resolution from Senate which has never been done before, at least in the Senate, it is pretty clear that the intention of the lawmakers is to at least give that extension to ABS-CBN," she said.
She likewise explained that even if they already held hearings in the Senate, the franchise still has to come from the House of Representatives.
"Unfortunately, we have to wait for the House to act before we can do anything really meaningful," she said.