By Jeffrey Damicog
Solicitor General Jose Calida on Wednesday defended the decision of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in issuing a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN which was forced to shut down its broadcasting operations.
“Why blame NTC when they are only following the law,” Calida said in a statement.
“Without a valid and subsisting franchise from Congress, the NTC cannot allow any broadcasting entity from operating in the country.” he added.
After ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise expired on May 4, the NTC issued on Tuesday, May 5, the cease and desist order following warnings made by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) against issuing provisional authorities (PAs) to allow the media giant to operate while the renewal of its legislative franchise remains pending.
“The OSG has the duty to advise the NTC on what is legal or not. We will be abdicating our duty to the NTC if we don’t advise them of the legal consequences of their actions,” said Calida. The OSG is the legal counsel of the NTC.
The Solicitor General said the Constitution provides that a broadcasting company can only operate in the country if it has a legislative franchise.
“The Constitution requires a prior franchise from Congress before a broadcasting entity can operate in this country. In the absence of a renewal, the franchise expires by operation of law. The franchise ceases to exist and the entity can no longer continue its operations as a public utility,” he explained.
Calida said the Supreme Court (SC) already declared this in its past rulings, particularly, the 2003 decision on the case of Associated Communications & Wireless Service – United Broadcasting Networks vs. NTC.
Citing the case, Calida said the SC ruled that “the issuance by the NTC of both a recall order and a cease and desist order against a broadcasting entity when it failed to renew its franchise was valid and compliant to administrative due process.”
“The exercise by the NTC of its regulatory power is in accordance with the principle of the rule of law. Nobody is sacred. Even a powerful and influential corporation must follow the law,” Calida said.
The Solicitor General believes that Congress should be the one to be blamed for the media giant’s closure.
“The bill renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise has been pending in Congress since 2016,” he said. “The question we should be asking is, why hasn’t Congress acted on it? Who is at fault here?”
Read more: NTC orders ABS-CBN to stop operations