May 4, 2020, news about the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) will be serving a cease and desist order to TV network giant, ABS CBN, following the latter’s franchise license expiration last month forcing the network to shut down its operations at midnight of the following day, May 5, 2020.
The country witnessed a flurry of verbal tussles among the lawmakers and legal luminaries on whether the network giant can continue to operate beyond May 4. The question at hand: can ABS-CBN operate on the strength of a provisional authority issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) pending the renewal of the network’s franchise by Congress or not?
Last Sunday, the government’s chief lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida warned the NTC against issuing a provisional authority in the absence of a Congress-approved franchise. A mere letter from leaders of the House of Representatives nor a resolution from the Senate would suffice to save the telecommunications regulatory body from possible legal responsibility.
Calida minced no words in his warning that NTC commissioners could be liable under the country’s anti-graft and corruption laws should they grant ABS-CBN the provisional authority to operate without a franchise renewal from Congress.
No less than former Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has made it crystal clear in the past on what the law says—a law crafted by the same institution that wants to violate it or wants the NTC to infringe it.
“I don’t think the House or a committee of the House can compel the NTC to issue a provisional authority. There is no basis to give a provisional authority because there is no franchise,” Justice Carpio has said in his past interviews.
Every franchise is a law because Republic Act No. 3846 requires all broadcasters to obtain a franchise from Congress before they are allowed to operate. And a provision under the law says a recipient of a franchise must obtain permits and licenses from the NTC in order to operate.
Another legal luminary, Congressman Edcel Lagman, said that only a full-fledged franchise for ABS-CBN can it be allowed to operate. What does this mean? The long and short of it is that Congress, where all broadcasting franchises emanate, should begin hearing the franchise application of ABS-CBN if it wants the network to continue airing. Period. This is the only solution.
More than the largest entertainment and media conglomerate in the country, ABS CBN is also known to providing aide to Filipino in times of calamities and rescuing abused kids through Sagip Kapamilya and Bantay Bata 163, respectively, true to its slogan, in the service of the Filipino people.
The kapamilya network is now fighting a battle not only for its 11 thousand employees and talents but also for hundreds of thousands to even millions of people relaying to the operations of the network, its projects, CSR efforts, and programs that many grew to love.
A world without ABS CBN maybe a typical day for others but for millions of Filipinos in and out of the Philippines they are loosing not just a source of entertainment but it is a piece of home or something that is constant in their lives.