By Ben Rosario
The top opposition leader in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (May 6) called for the abolition of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), a day after the agency issued a cease-and-desist order (CDO) putting an end to the operations of ABS-CBN network, one of the country’s leading media firms.
In a privilege speech, Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante insisted that poor performance and incompetence were the key reasons for his call for NTC’s abolition.
Abante said NTC’s powers should be transferred to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). The NTC is an agency attached to the department.
The agency has become the subject of criticism after it issued the CDO that effectively put an end to the operations of ABS-CBN, whose congressional franchise expired May 4.
ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Nina Taduran said it is not yet too late for the NTC to allow the Kapamilya network to resume operations, saying it may still grant a provisional authority while the Lower House is still deciding on its fate.
“If indeed ABS-CBN has violated its franchise benefits, let the House committee on legislative franchises and the court decide on this. In the meantime, since the media network is not only dishing out information and entertainment, but doing its own drive to help the victims of COVID-19, allow them to operate in this peculiar time,” Taduran said.
Abante also believed the agency has become a whipping boy for the Lower House’s indecision on the network’s application for franchise extension.
‘Slap in the face’
He said aside from its incompetence in dealing with telecommunications issues, “the latest act of the NTC in issuing a cease-and-desist order against broadcast company ABS-CBN is a slap in the face of Congress and an outright act of defiance.”
Abante recalled that the House committee on legislative franchises urged the NTC in February to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate.
The appeal was made by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chair of the House committee on legislative franchises, because the Lower House has not yet completed its public hearings on the network’s franchise application.
“NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told the House committee on legislative franchises on March 10––under oath––that the NTC will issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN,” Abante said.
“Contrary to its previous pronouncements, the NTC issued a cease-and-desist order directing ABS-CBN to cease operations immediately.
“The NTC should be abolished and its functions and powers be transferred to the DICT where it can be better exercised and hopefully be more responsive to the needs of our changing times,” he added.
Aside from the CDO issued by the NTC to ABS-CBN, Abante emphasized that “we’ve seen how inutile the NTC has become.”
Abante pointed out that the NTC came out with a memorandum circular that required mobile phone service providers to abide by certain minimum quality standards, yet it did not possess the equipment to do an independent test and had to rely on data submitted by the telecommunication companies themselves.
He also blamed the agency for its inability to encourage telco players to enter the Philippine market, requiring the intervention of President Rodrigo Duterte himself.