Illegal to take away ABS-CBN frequency after shutdown: lawmaker


Posted at May 08 2020 12:00 PM

MANILA - Regulators will violate the Constitution if they take away the broadcast frequencies of ABS-CBN Corp after forcing it off air due to its stalled franchise renewal, a lawmaker said Friday. 

The National Telecommunications Commission, a day after ABS-CBN's franchise expired, ordered the network on Tuesday to stop its operations and explain within 10 days why its broadcast frequency should not be recalled. 

The order is "illegal and unconstitutional" because it was not prompted by any petition and the body did not give prior notice and any hearing to ABS-CBN, said Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez. 

The commission "cannot take away the frequency of ABS-CBN" and if it did, the courts "would have to come in", said Rodriguez. 

While the grant of a franchise is a privilege, the frequency becomes a "vested right" of a network after it invests on broadcast infrastructure, he said. 
"Protektado [iyan] sa ating Konstitusyon," he told DZMM. 

(That is protected by our constitution.) 

"They (NTC) should warned that they'll be violating the Constitution if they take it away because Congress now has bills on the giving of provisional franchise or a regular 25-year franchise," he added. 

The shutdown of ABS-CBN, home to 11,000 workers, came less than a week after Solicitor General Jose Calida pressed the NTC to issue a cease-and-desist order. 

The commission earlier said it would let the 65-year-old media outfit operate provisionally while bills to renew its license languished in Congress. 

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday said congressmen would conduct "fair, impartial, thorough, and comprehensive" hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise. 

He did not say when. ​

These hearings should be urgent because the House will adjourn on June 3 and will only reopen after a month, said Rodriguez. 

ABS-CBN -- whose news and entertainment shows reach millions of Filipinos through television, radio and online platforms -- is a "public necessity" during the coronavirus pandemic, he added. is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.