Drilon asks NTC: Why single out ABS-CBN?


Posted at May 07 2020 12:14 AM

Drilon asks NTC: Why single out ABS-CBN? 1
Employees and members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines light candles in front of the headquarters of ABS-CBN Corp in Quezon City on Tuesday. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Sen. Franklin Drilon on Wednesday took to task the country’s telecoms body for ordering ABS-CBN to halt its broadcast operations – a move he said violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

“The cease and desist order against ABS-CBN is not only a grave abuse of discretion on the part of the NTC [National Telecommunications Commission], it also infringes on the constitutional guarantee of equal protection,” he said in a statement.

The Senate minority leader stressed that NTC previously allowed companies to operate even after the lapse of their franchises while Congress deliberates their renewal.

“Why was ABS-CBN singled out here?” he said.

Under the constitutional principle, similar subjects should not be treated differently as to give undue favor to some and unjustly discriminate against others, according to Drilon.

Section 23 of the Public Telecommunications Policy Act, contains an Equality Clause which states that “any advantage, favor privilege or immunity granted to existing franchises shall ipso facto become part of previously granted telecommunications franchises and shall be accorded immediately and unconditionally to the grantees of such franchises.”

“By ordering ABS-CBN to stop operations after the lapse of its franchise while allowing other similarly situated to continue to operate, then, clearly, the NTC is placing ABS-CBN in a class of its own, thereby violating the equal protection clause mandated by the Constitution,” Drilon said.

NTC’s action, the senator said, is a grave abuse of authority.

“It has a ripple effect because other franchisees similarly situated with the ABS-CBN will also have to cease operation eventually. It has negative consequences and far-reaching implications,” he added.

Eleven bills renewing ABS-CBN's fresh 25-year franchise had languished at the House of Representatives since 2014 until it expired on Monday, May 4.

Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier sought the high court to nullify the network’s franchise citing alleged abuses, such as pay-per-view services.

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 decades-old 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.

Following NTC’s order, ABS-CBN was forced off the air Tuesday night, the second time it was shut down during the Marcos-led martial law. 

"Millions of Filipinos will lose their source of news and entertainment when ABS-CBN is ordered to go off-air on TV and radio tonight (5 May 2020) when people need crucial and timely information as the nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic," ABS-CBN Corp. said in a statement. 
"This is in compliance with the cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) today that prohibits ABS-CBN from continuing its broadcast operations effective immediately," it said. 

News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.