The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday issued broadcast giant ABS-CBN a cease-and-desist order which enjoined it from continuing its television and radio operations following the expiration of its franchise on Monday.
The NTC gave ABS-CBN 10 days from the receipt of its order dated 05 May to respond as to why the frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled.
The commission stressed that having a valid congressional franchise is required by law for a broadcast company to operate. The NTC said in a press statement that:
“Republic Act No. 7966 which granted ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise to operate TV and radio broadcasting stations expired on 04 May, 2020.
“The Radio Control Law Act No. 3846, as amended provides that ‘no person, firm, company, association, or corporation shall construct, install, establish, or operate a radio transmitting station, or a radio receiving station used for commercial purposes, or a radio broadcasting station, without having first obtained a fanchise therefor from the Congress of the Philippines.
“Upon expiration of RA 7966, ABS-CBN no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise as required by Act No. 3846.”
The NTC directed its regional offices to implement the closure order in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
Earlier in the day, the NTC seemed to have found itself in a Catch-22 situation, caught in between divergent positions by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the House of Representatives.
This as the chair of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises threatened to cite NTC officials in contempt if they would adopt the OSG’s position that broadcast giant ABS-CBN should not be allowed to operate with an expired franchise.
Palawan Rep. Franz “Chicoy” Alvarez said his panel would summon and cite NTC officials in contempt if they would “succumb to the pressure” and “disregard the commitments they gave under oath”
The lawmaker was referring to a statement by NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba during a hearing of Alvarez’s panel last March that the agency will grant ABS-CBN the authority to operate.
But with the NTC officials being threatened by Alverez, questions are being asked whether it is not the House which is applying the pressure on the government regulatory agency in charge of broadcast companies.
Alvarez said the legislative franchises panel will not be dictated upon by any individual or agency as to how it deals with the franchise application of the network owned by the Lopez family.
LOOK: NTC’s order
Rep. Alvarez claimed the OSG is exerting pressure on the NTC to go against the position of the Department of Justice that ABS-CBN may continue to operate while Congress deliberates on the renewal of its franchise.
The franchise of ABS-CBN expired last Monday, 4 May.
It may be recalled that the OSG said NTC commissioners risk subjecting themselves to prosecution for graft and corruption should they issue the network a provisional authority to operate pending its franchise renewal.
“We would like to make it clear that Congress takes this matter very seriously, as it directly challenges our exclusive Constitutional authority to grant, deny, extend, revoke or modify broadcast franchises,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had enjoined the NTC, through a letter, to allow ABS-CBN to operate while the House deliberates on the 11 bills seeking renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.
The legislative franchises panel’s chair maintained that their move is consistent with precedents and that the Congress has the exclusive authority to grant or deny the application for franchises.