MANILA - The absence of the country's telecoms body in a Senate hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise due to a pending petition at the Supreme Court is "unacceptable," Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Tuesday.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, vice-chair of the Senate Public Services panel, said the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) invoked the sub judice rule, which prohibits parties from making remarks that may unduly influence the case.
This as ABS-CBN Corp has a pending plea before the high court stopping the NTC's order that halted its broadcast operations on May 5, a day after the lapse of its franchise.
The Senate did not recognize this as a valid ground to refuse attendance in a hearing in previous Congress sessions, Pangilinan said.
"I believe using such a reason that there’s a pending case to evade or avoid a congressional hearing is unacceptable. Otherwise given all the cases pending before various courts against government agencies or its employees, they will all invoke sub judice to avoid attending Senate hearings," he said.
"We will not recognize as a valid ground to recluse hearings in the Senate. We will not be stymied by such invocations now and in the future."
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said it would be important to ask the NTC if it has any objection to the issuance of a new franchise for ABS-CBN Corp.
"If they do not attend in the next hearing, then they primarily waive their right to make any comment on this particular issue because they must comment if they interpose any objection or not," Zubiri said.
The Senate will require the NTC to appear in the next inquiry and will closely monitor proceedings in the Supreme Court, Gatchalian said.
He said the commission may answer administrative and procedural matters.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon pointed out during the Senate hearing that the NTC had allowed at least five other entities to continue operating without a franchise.
The high court on Tuesday ordered the NTC and both chambers of Congress to respond within 10 days to ABS-CBN's petition against the cease and desist order of the telecoms body.