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Rody lenity clears ABS-CBN

The Chief Executive vowed to never interfere in the deliberations for the extension of the media giant’s congressional franchise.

Francis Wakefield

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Clouds of doubt on the ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal had been removed by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday when he declared to have accepted the network’s apology for the non-airing of his campaign material in 2016.

The Chief Executive vowed to never interfere in the deliberations for the extension of the media giant’s congressional franchise, saying he will seek help from the other members of the media when the time comes for him to sign ABS-CBN’s permit to operate.

“I will not interfere in the talks,” Mr. Duterte said. “I have accepted (its) apology.”

Carlo Lopez Katigbak, ABS-CBN president and CEO, extended the apology to Duterte on Monday during the Senate hearing on the franchise.

The President also said that it is now up to Solicitor General Jose Calida whether to withdraw the quo warranto case he had filed against the country’s leading media network.

“As I said, I will not interfere with them,” Mr. Duterte reiterated.

As if taking the cue from the President’s statement, the House of Representatives urged the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), through a letter, to grant ABS-CBN Corporation a provisional authority to operate until Congress decides on its franchise application.

The letter, dated 26 February and sent to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba was signed by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and House committee on legislative franchises chairman Franz Alvarez.

“As the House of Representatives has the exclusive original jurisdiction and authority to act on franchise applications, we enjoin you to grant ABS-CBN Corporation a provisional authority to operate effective 4 May 2020 until such time that the House of Representatives/Congress has made a decision on its application,” the letter stated.

Cayetano and Alvarez likewise urged NTC to grant ABS-CBN subsidiaries ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., Sky Cable Corporation and Amcara Broadcasting Network Inc. the same provisional authority.

“Please include in their respective provisional authorities terms and conditions you deem appropriate to protect public interest consistent with applicable laws, rules and regulations.”

The ABS-CBN franchise is set to expire this coming 4 May.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said Congress may direct the NTC to issue a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN through a resolution.

A separate or joint resolution coming from the Senate, the House of Representatives or both, would be enough for the NTC to issue a provisional permit to the media network, Guevarra said.

This was Guevarra’s response to an opinion aired by former Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who claimed that the media giant could not operate with a mere NTC permit without its franchise approved by Congress.

“As long as both houses come out with the proper resolution, whether jointly or separately, that will be sufficient affirmation for the NTC to issue a provisional authority,” Guevarra said.

Puno gave his opinion after Guevarra told a Senate hearing on the ABS-CBN issue that the largest broadcast network could continue airing programs after the lapse of its franchise on 4 May.

As these developed, another lawmaker has filed a resolution seeking to extend the network’s franchise for another year or until 4 May 2021.

House Resolution 29 was filed by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodrigues. It comes a week after Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar filed another resolution seeking to grant ABS-CBN a temporary permit until 30 June 2022.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, however, countered the resolutions, saying the legislative franchises panel should act on the bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN with a franchise now.

Meanwhile, the SC deferred resolving the motion filed Calida seeking a gag order against ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence over the quo warranto petition for the cancellation of the network’s franchise.

SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said the 15-man High Tribunal reset its discussion and possible resolution on the motion on 10 March.

The justices want to study further the pleadings submitted by the parties on the gag order plea, Hosaka said.

“The case will be taken up again by the en banc on 10 March 2020. This is to give the justices time to go over the pleadings submitted by the parties, including the comments recently filed by the respondents,” Hosaka said.

For the embattled network, it said the issuance of a gag order will not only violate press freedom, but will also deprive the public of vital information relating to its franchise issue.

Calida is seeking the cancellation of ABS-CBN and its subsidiary’s legislative franchise due to their “highly-abusive” practices.

He accused the company of engaging in broadcasting for a fee, which is beyond the scope of its legislative franchise.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) added that the television network has been allowing foreign investors to take part in the ownership of a Philippine mass media entity, in violation of the foreign interest restriction of mass media provided under Section 11, Article XVI of the Constitution.

Likewise, the petition of the OSG said the network’s management violated its franchise when it launched and operated a pay-per-view channel in ABS-CBN TV Plus, the KBO Channel, without prior approval or permit from the NTC.

with Alvin Murcia
@tribunephl_alvi

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