NTC to issue alias shutdown order vs ABS-CBN after getting SolGen advice

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2020 04:22 PM | Updated as of Jun 29 2020 04:49 PM

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MANILA (1st UPDATE) - The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said Monday it would heed the advice of the government's lead lawyer to shut down the Kapamilya Channel, which is airing some of ABS-CBN Corp's shows through cable and satellite television, nearly 2 months into the shutdown of its free-to-air TV channels and radio stations. 

The Kapamilya Channel airs a number of shows using the frequency of Amcara Broadcasting Network, a company where ABS-CBN used to have a 49% stake. It also uses the franchise of ABS-CBN that expired on May 4 and was covered by a May 5 cease and desist order against the network, said NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba. 

"Dapat ay hindi po nila ginagawa iyon dahil iyong ABS-CBN franchise na binanggit ninyo ay expired na. Mali po iyong ginagawa nila. That is a violation of the CDO (cease and desist order)," he told lawmakers who are deliberating on a fresh license for the network. 

(ABS-CBN should not be doing that because its franchise has expired. What they're doing is wrong.) 

But because ABS-CBN is questioning the order before the Supreme Court, the NTC "wanted to be more prudent" and asked for guidance on the issue from the Office of the Solicitor General, said Cordoba. 

"Ang sabi po ng Office of the Solicitor General is tama nga, kasama nga po ito at puwede po kaming mag-issue ng alias cease-and-desist order," he said. 

(The Office of the Solicitor General said it's right, it's included in the CDO and we can issue an alias cease-and-desist order.) 

An alias CDO is not included in the commission's rules, he said. 

"Dahil kakatanggap lang po namin kaninang umaga, inaaral na po ng aming legal department at kung saka-sakaling okay naman po ang kanilang pag-aaral, we will issue forthwith iyong aming alias cease-and-desist order," said Cordona. 

(Because we have just received the advice this morning, our legal department is studying it and if their study is okay, we will issue forthwith our alias cease-and-desist order.) 

Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier warned NTC officials that they could face graft charges if they let ABS-CBN operate beyond its franchise expiration. 

Calida pressed NTC to issue cease and desist order vs ABS-CBN, his letter to the commission showed.

The broadcaster was then facing a quo warranto petition filed by Calida, which the Supreme Court junked last Tuesday. 

ABS-CBN SEEKS 'FAIRNESS': PRESIDENT 

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Amcara is "not owned" by ABS-CBN, said its CEO and President Carlo Katigbak. 

Amcara's Channel 43 airs ABS-CBN content under a block-time arrangement, which is "a standard commercial agreement where a company is allowed to buy airtime from a duly licensed broadcaster and to air our programs," he said. 

The NTC's cease and desist order does not cover Amcara's Channel 43. ABS-CBN has its own digital channel, Channel 16, Katigbak said. 

He also noted that the NTC previously allowed other companies to continue their operations while Congress was still tackling their franchise applications. 
 
"We would like permission po to ask for the same privilege to be extended sana to ABS in the spirit of fairness," he said.

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Lawmakers have exclusive powers over media licenses and the airing of ABS-CBN shows via its TVPlus is "not only a violation of the franchise, but it is a usurpation and infringement on the powers of Congress," AnaKalusugan party-list Rep Mike Defensor told the NTC. 
 
Senior Deputy Majority Leader Crispin "Boying" Remulla said this was "another violation being committed by ABS-CBN in the sense that... they're now engaging in the usufruct of another franchise." 

Usufruct is the right to enjoy the use and advantages of another's property short of the destruction or waste of its substance. 
 
"A blocktime arrangement is not usufruct. A blocktime arrangement is a standard commercial agreement that is quite common in the broadcasting industry," said Katigbak. 

"It's not just ABS that enters into blocktime agreements. There are many other broadcasters din po that have entered into such types of blocktype arrangement," he added. 

Remulla said this was a "palusot" or excuse. 
 
"Ginagamit pa rin nila iyong (they are still using) public frequency to broadcast ABS-CBN content... They are now conducting an illegal operation," he alleged. 

Defensor then asked Cordoba, "Ang commitment mo ngayong hapon, ihihinto mo lahat ng programa [ng ABS-CBN] at ilalabas mo iyang alias CDO na iyan sa kadahilanang iyan din ang advice sa iyo ng Solicitor General?" 

(Your commitment this afternoon is that you will stop all programs and you will issue the CDO because that is the advice to you of the Solicitor General?) 

The NTC Commissioner answered in the affirmative. 

ABS-CBN is "willing to submit our judgement to the regulatory agency," said Katigbak. 

"Ang hinihingi lang po namin (all we're asking for) is to make sure we are given due process so we have the right venue to express our position on this matter," he said. "Whatever decision NTC comes up with, we will respect." 
 
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