Solons urge NTC to issue provisional permit to ABS-CBN

Published May 4, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ben Rosario

As Congress resumed its regular sessions Monday, the ABS-CBN legislative franchise controversy came to fore as lawmakers supporting the network strongly called for the issuance of a provisional permit for its continued operation.

Primary complainant Atty. Larry Gadon during the hearing of the House Committee on Justice on the impeachment complaint he filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in Batasang Pambansa, Wednesday, November 22. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)
Atty. Larry Gadon

Critics of the embattled network vowed to stop the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) from heeding the call of members of Congress.

Lawyer Larry Gadon joined Solicitor General Jose Calida in threatening NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba with graft cases as soon a provisional permit is issued to allow the continued operation of ABS-CBN despite the expiration of its legislative franchise Monday.

Gadon said Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, will be included in the graft case he intends to file.

Cayetano and Alvarez allegedly led House members to prod NTC to grant a provisional permit to allow the ABS-CBN network to continue operating while Congress is still mulling its bid for a 25-year extension of its legislative franchise.

“Speaker Cayetano is not the Congress, Cong Alvarez is not the Congress. Their notice to NTC has no force and effect of a law,” stressed Gadon, whose threat to go to court was ignored by the solons.

Meanwhile, pro-ABS-CBN solons moved strongly to support the grant of special franchise extension by the NTC.

Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Tonypet Albano said Congress, having been granted jurisdiction over legislative franchises under the Constitution, can ask the NTC to provide the provisional extension.

“And with that power, we as a Congress have exercised that power by asking NTC to provide a provisional authority to ABS-CBN, while we deliberate whether to reject or grant the ABS-CBN franchise.

Therefore, especially during this perilous crisis where media is key to help fight COVID-19, I see no reason for NTC to close down ABS-CBN,” the House official said.

Albano urged the NTC to maintain its independence from the executive department and heed Congress recommendation to allow ABS-CBN to continue operating.

For his part, Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate chided Calida for threatening NTC “for doing its job in issuing the provisional permit for ABSCBN.”

“Solicitor General Calida’s statement only shows his severe aversion for press freedom as he even timed such a threat on World Press Freedom Day. We strongly urge the NTC, as the primary regulatory agency, to issue the provisional permit now as it has all the legal and historical grounds to do so,” said Zarate.

“The NTC being the principal and client, is not absolutely bound by the Solicitor General’s legal opinion, much more of threats. Kowtowing to Calida’s threats means goodbye to NTC’s autonomy, goodbye to press freedom,” he said.