NTC moves to block ABS-CBN's TRO plea vs. closure order

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 26 2020 05:53 PM

MANILA - The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) urged the Supreme Court on Tuesday to deny ABS-CBN Corp.'s petition for a temporary restraining order against the cease and desist order (CDO) it issued early this month.

In its 98-page Comment filed Tuesday, the regulatory body insisted it had basis to issue the CDO last May 5 despite the letter from the House franchise committee and a Senate resolution authorizing it to issue a provisional authority in favor of the media giant.

Because ABS-CBN has no franchise, the NTC said it has the power to stop its broadcasting operations. The franchise of ABS-CBN expired on May 4.

"The Cease and Desist Order was issued against the petitioner in compliance with the Constitution, applicable laws, 2006 National Telecommunications Commission Rules of Practice and Procedure, and existing jurisprudence, and on account of the lapse of the petitioner's franchise," the NTC said, reiterating that a franchise is needed before an entity can operate any broadcasting station in the Philippines.

The NTC issued the CDO without previously informing the media network of any pending complaint as required by its rules. At a Senate hearing last February, the NTC said it had not ordered the closure of any media company whose franchise had expired pending renewal.

ABS-CBN complained that its rights to due process and equal protection were violated, a claim the NTC denied.

The NTC stressed it has the right to issue the CDO on its own, without prior hearing, upon the lapse of the network's franchise, in the interest of public service, welfare and security of the state, and in cases where the respondent has no authority from the NTC to install, operate or maintain its broadcasting facility.

It pointed out that wrongful past practice could not be the basis for allowing ABS-CBN to continue operating.

The NTC had previously allowed 5 other broadcasting companies to operate even up to 2 years from the lapse of their franchise. But it said ABS-CBN's case is different as there was a complaint filed against ABS-CBN by no less than the Solicitor General.
Solicitor General Jose Calida, who lodged in February a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN's franchise, warned the NTC against issuing a provisional authority.

The Solicitor General, acting as the NTC's counsel, filed the comment on behalf of the regulatory body.

The regulatory body denied violating ABS-CBN's right to freedom of speech and of the press, as well as the public's right to information, citing other available media and ABS-CBN's continued operations online, particularly TV Patrol's May 7 episode which drew 8 million viewers.
ABS-CBN's digital and cable operations account for only a small fraction of its previous reach. In its previous motion, the company said there are areas in the country where ABS-CBN is the only accessible network.

Even if NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba had previously promised the House of Representatives to allow ABS-CBN to continue operating, the NTC said it could not be held in estoppel for the mistake or errors of any of its officials or agents.

The NTC claimed ABS-CBN has no right upon which to base its plea for TRO, and the advertising losses could not be considered irreparable injury.

ABS-CBN had said it loses P30 to P35 million in advertising revenues every single day it is off the airwaves, which could possibly result to job cuts by August.

In any case, the NTC added, there is nothing more to stop because the CDO had been implemented.

The NTC argued ABS-CBN was wrong in going to the Supreme Court when it could have asked for a motion for reconsideration before the body, or filed an appeal before the Court of Appeals.

It also stressed the grant of a legislative franchise is a political question beyond the scope of judicial review.

In the same pleading, the NTC asked the high court to drop the House of Representatives and the Senate as parties to the case, saying they are not parties who stand to be benefited or injured by the petition (real parties-in-interest), and neither are they indispensable in the resolution of the case.
The SC magistrates, in a unanimous vote last week, ordered the House and the Senate to be impleaded and to file their respective comments to the petition.

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