By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang is saddened by the shutdown of ABS-CBN media network but is hopeful other broadcast entities will fill the void in disseminating information to the public especially about the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lopez-owned television network went off air Tuesday night in compliance with the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) cease and desist order following its franchise expiry last May 4.
“Siyempre po nalulungkot din kami dahil nabawasan yung magca-carry ng Laging Handa at mag-carry ng presidential press briefing at magbibigay ng balita sa ating mga kababayan (Of course we are also saddened that we have one less network that carries Laging Handa and presidential press briefings, that delivers news to our people),” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said over government television Wednesday.
“Pero inaasahan po naming ang PTV 4, GMA, CNN, ABC 5 ay hindi magkukulang sa kanilang tungkulin at pupunuan kung ano ang dapat punuan dito sa pangangailangan ng pag-disseminate ng information (But we expect PTV 4, GMA, CNN, ABC5 will not fall short in their responsibility and will fill up the needs of disseminating information),” he’s aid
Roque admitted that it was “not prudent” to close down ABS-CBN that employs thousands of workers at a time when coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on the nation.
But the Palace official insisted that such cease and desist order is “perfectly within the powers” of the NTC. He said the commission has ruled that the network cannot be given provisional authority to operate since its legislative franchise has already lapsed.
Roque also the Palace respects the independence of the NTC to issue such cease and desist order against the network. He said commission may be an attached agency of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) but has “complete independence” when exercising its quasi-judicial powers.
“Siguro hindi nga po prudent pero ang desisyon na iyan ay tanging NTC lang ang pwedeng gumawa (Maybe it is not prudent but only the NTC can make such decision),” he said.
“Siya ay nasa ilalim lamang ng DICT for policy and program purposes pero ‘yung kanyang gawain bilang isang quasi judicial body hinding-hindi dapat pahimasukan ng DICT at lalong-lalo na ng presidente (It is under the DICT only for policy and program purposes but the DICT especially the President cannot interfere with its work as a quasi judicial body),” he said.
Roque also defended Solicitor General Jose Calida from criticisms that he put pressure on the NTC to decide against the television network.
Prior to the NTC cease and desist order against ABS-CBN, Calida warned the commission against issuing a provisional authority to the network in the absence of a franchise. He claimed the commissioners may face graft complaints if they issue “unlawful” provisional authority when a broadcast company has no valid and existing legislative franchise.
“Hindi po nag-influence si Calida. Sumulat siya (Calida did not influence anyone. He sent a letter) that’s in due course of his job. He is perfectly within his job to write,” Roque said.
Despite the OSG move, Roque also trusted that NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba is an independent public servant who cannot be dictated upon.
Cordoba is now on his third term as NTC commissioner after President Duterte appointed him to the post in 2016. He was previously appointed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2009.
“‘Yung chairman ng NTC, ilan presidente na po ang pinagsilbihan niya. Walang puwedeng magsabi na nadidiktahan itong si Chairman Cordoba. Tingin ko naman sa tagal na panahon na nandiyan sya, walang makakapagsabi na nadidiktahan si Chairman Cordoba (How presidents has the NTC chairman served? No one can dictate to Chairman Cordoba. I think with his long years in service, no one can say Chairman Cordoba can be ordered around),” Roque said.