DOJ insists ABS-CBN can operate with provisional authority

Published May 4, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Jeffrey Damicog

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has remained firm in its position that ABS-CBN television network can be issued provisional authority (PA) to operate while the renewal of its legislative franchise remains pending.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra (TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO /MANILA BULLETIN)
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra (TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO /MANILA BULLETIN)

Justice Secretary Menaro Guevarra gave the assurance as the media giant’s legislative franchise expired on Monday, May 4.

“The DOJ stands by its position that there is sufficient equitable basis to allow broadcast entities to continue operating while the bills for the renewal of their franchise remain pending with Congress,” he told reporters on Monday.

The National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) granted provisional authority to the media giant in March to operate up to June, 2022 pursuant to the directive stated in the letter sent by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chair of the House committee on legislative franchises,.

Back in February, the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) said it will most likely grant provisional authority to the media giant pursuant to the directive stated in the letter sent by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chair of the House committee on legislative franchises.

“While existing laws provide that a person who wishes to operate a radio/tv station must first obtain a legislative franchise and thereafter a license to operate from the NTC, there is no law that governs the rights and obligations of a person or entity who has already been granted a legislative franchise and has fully operated for many years, has applied for the renewal of its franchise long before the expiration thereof, but for reasons not attributable to said person or entity, the legislature has not yet acted on the renewal of the said franchise,” Guevarra said.

“In several similar situations in the past, Congress allowed the status quo, without urging the NTC to issue a temporary or provisional permit, in consideration of the equities of the situation,” Guevarra said.

Solicitor General Jose Calida had already expressed opposition against the issuance of the provisional authority to ABS-CBN.

Calida stated that “the NTC cannot rely on the 26 February 2020 letter of Speaker Cayetano and Rep. Alvarez or on Senate Resolution No. 344, which both urge the NTC to issue PAs to ABS-CBN Corporation and its affiliates, for the issuance of the PAs.”

The solicitor general even cited a 2003 Supreme Court (SC) ruling of the case of Associated Communications & Wireless Service – United Broadcasting Networks v. NTC which he noted “held invalid a 1991 DOJ opinion stating that the NTC may issue a permit or authorization without a legislative franchise.”

“The case of ‘Associated Communications’ does not apply because in that case, the company did not even have an original franchise to begin with,” Guevarra said.

“In the present case, the subject company had already been granted a franchise and a license to operate, albeit subject to further deliberations for its renewal,” he added.

Calida has a pending quo warranto petition before the SC which sought the nullification of the legislative franchises of ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. due to alleged violations committed by the network.

 
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