Four more emotionally charged and woefully misinformed individuals joined the bandwagon of critics blaming the government for the absence of the ABS-CBN broadcast network from the airwaves. Their public statements reveal the extent of what they do not understand about the legal aspects of the ABS-CBN controversy.
The new critics are members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission that drafted the imperfect 1987 Constitution, namely, Edmundo Garcia, Florangel Rosario Braid, Christian Monsod and Felicitas Arroyo.
That Commission was composed of 48 unelected individuals, 42 of whom were handpicked minions of then President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino. Five members were from the political opposition.
Garcia, Braid, Monsod and Arroyo call themselves “framers of the 1987 Constitution.” Whether that title should be something to be proud of is debatable these days, considering the numerous defects in the Charter they clumsily framed.
One conspicuous defect in the 1987 Constitution is a provision in Article II which outlaws “political dynasties.” That provision recklessly left the job of defining the term “political dynasties” to Congress.
Reckless, indeed, because Congress, which is dominated by political dynasties, cannot be expected to outlaw the same. That’s like having the wolf guard the hen house, so to speak.
Because of that, political dynasties control Congress today.
The framers denounced the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for its refusal to comply with the promise it made to Congress in March 2020 that it will issue a provisional permit to ABS-CBN to allow the network to continue operations even after the expiration of its legislative franchise on 4 May 2020.
It was, the framers said, inexcusable for the NTC not to issue the provisional permit because Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra already gave his go-signal.
They also said the closure of ABS-CBN took place during the worst of times, when the COVID-19 crisis calls for the presence of an unimpeded, independent media.
These critics also cited a sloppily crafted provision of the 1987 Constitution, namely, Section 10, Article XVI, which requires the State to provide a “policy environment” for communication structures suited to the needs of the nation.
Sloppily drafted, definitely, because the provision does not define the term “policy environment”; uses the word “policy” twice in the same sentence; and is listed under Article XVI (General Provisions) instead of under Article II (State Policies) where it belongs.
The group’s statements indicate that some framers of the 1987 Constitution are so fixated on the text of the imperfect charter, and have not bothered to read up on the latest Supreme Court (SC) rulings applicable to the ABS-CBN franchise controversy.
If these four framers did their homework before they started complaining, they would have realized that the promise of the NTC to issue a provisional permit to ABS-CBN is legally void. A ruling of the SC in February 2003 states that the NTC is not authorized by any law to issue a provisional permit to operate to a broadcast station whose legislative franchise has already expired.
Clearly, these framers cannot scold the NTC for reneging on a promise to perform an unlawful act.
As lawyers, Monsod and Arroyo are expected to know the latest jurisprudence. They also ought to know that Secretary Guevarra’s go-signal cannot overturn a ruling of the SC.
It’s preposterous to say that the closure of ABS-CBN was ill-timed because it took place when the nation needs an “unimpeded, independent media” during the COVID-19 crisis.
Legally speaking, there is no closure to speak of. The network had to go off the air because its franchise expired on 4 May 2020. That expiration date is stated in the 1995 franchise of ABS-CBN, which was enacted long before COVID-19 threatened the world.
ABS-CBN news programs are still accessible on the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) on Sky Cable TV, and on their TV Plus platform. There are other media around, too, like GMA TV and CNN Philippines that provide news in the country.
By the way, Monsod used to work for the Lopez family which controls ABS-CBN.
Garcia, Braid, Monsod and Arroyo should read up before making untenable public statements which may mislead others.