Surigao lawmaker: Meddling of SolGen in ABS-CBN closure ‘deplorable’

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 08 2020 08:56 PM

Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel believes the NTC felt pressured by the Office of the Solicitor General when it issued the closure order against ABS-CBN. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA—A lawmaker on Friday said he believes the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) felt pressured by the Office of the Solicitor General when it issued the closure order against ABS-CBN.

“I totally agree with Speaker (Alan Peter) Cayetano. If you will analyze everything, it was the meddling of OSG [Jose] Calida that led to the closure of ABS-CBN,” Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel said on ANC’s “Headstart.”

“I believe that the action of the OSG is deplorable.”

During a March 10 hearing, Pimentel said he asked if the NTC would grant provisional authority to the network. The agency, he said, assured the committee based on the opinion of the justice department that it would.

“That’s why I was really shocked when I read an article that NTC issued a cease and desist order and I can only surmise that the (cease-and-desist) order that was issued by NTC was a result of the letter that OSG Calida sent to NTC threatening to file a case against them if they will issue a provisional authority,” he said.

The NTC on Tuesday issued a CDO, shutting down the operation of its television and radio stations.

“Natakot lang talaga (ang NTC). They were threatened by that letter because it is clearly stated there that a case will be filed against them if they issued a provisional authority,” Pimentel said.

“It is just unfortunate that the OSG is meddling in the affairs of the Congress because it is very clear that Congress has the power to grant or revoke franchise but here is OSG — I don’t know for what reason, maybe he has a personal thing with ABS-CBN — he issues now a letter requiring the NTC to issue a cease and desist order.”

But while the NTC did not break the law by issuing the CDO, Pimentel said the agency kept silent when it allowed other companies with expired franchises to operate.

“In the case of ABS-CBN, they were singled out because I believe this is the first time that they have issued a cease-and-desist order, if not the first time but in recent times compared to other franchises. How come they did not issue a CDO in the past several years to expired franchises?” he said.

The lawmaker added that ABS-CBN should have been covered by the memorandum issued by the NTC on automatic renewal of expiring permits of broadcast and pay-TV facilities during the enhanced community quarantine.

“It states that all permits that are necessary to operate shall be valid 60 days after the lifting of the quarantine so in this case July 15, is the date that ABS-CBN should have been allowed to operate,” Pimentel said.

The NTC memo dated March 16 stated that licenses will be valid for 60 days from the end of the quarantine period. After which, the stations will be given 60 days to file for renewal of their permit or license without penalties or surcharges.

“It’s very clear. It says there ‘all permits’. It did not say that permits that have already expired franchises are not allowed. It did not state,” Pimentel said.

With the recent development, Pimentel said he believes it is imperative for Congress to act on the matter.

“But I do not agree that it will be approved in one day. We go on a marathon hearing, then probably we can have it in a few weeks because there are several issues that has to be heard,” he said.

This would also be in accordance with the ground rules Congress set in March that the committee will have to hear all arguments for and against ABS-CBN.

“I hope that Congress will be able to schedule this, because on June 4 we will have our recess and the next session will resume on the (State of the Nation Address) na that will be the end of July. We really have to if not act fast but at least we should have several hearings to resolve this issue,” he said.

According to Pimentel, the best recourse for the network at the moment is if the Supreme Court approves the petition it filed for a temporary restraining order.

“The other option of course if Congress will pass the bill renewing the franchise,” he said.