By Ellson Quismorio
For Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the Supreme Court’s (SC) issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) favoring the cause of TV and radio giant ABS-CBN is a long shot.
The lawyer-congressman maintained that the network’s best hope for resuming its TV and radio operations still lies with the action of the House of Representatives, or with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
“The ill-fated franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation was dead on arrival at the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC),” Lagman said, referring to the popular network’s legislative franchise which expired last May 4.
The NTC issued a cease-and-desist order against ABS-CBN the next day, May 5, which the company complied with by going off the air. But it is now seeking a TRO on the order from the High Court.
“Even the Supreme Court will have difficulty in finding legal anchorage for issuing a TRO against NTC since the law is clear under R.A. (Republic Act) No. 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act that: ‘No person shall commence or conduct the business of being a public telecommunications entity without first obtaining a franchise,'” Lagman said.
“What is needed to operate is either an original franchise or a renewed one. Any alleged issuances by NTC of provisional authority to operate to those with expired franchises cannot be invoked as a precedent in violation of the law,” added the Duterte administration critic.
On March 10, the NTC promised the House committee on legislative franchises the it would issue a provisional authority for ABS-CBN to continue its operations while the Lower Chamber decides what to do with the bills seeking the renewal of the franchise.
This about-face has irked the House leadership a great deal and viewed it as an act of deception by the NTC.
“Only the Congress, more particularly the House of Representatives where private bills like legislative franchises emanate, can resurrect ABS-CBN’s operations by forthwith granting the network a renewed 25-year franchise…The proverbial key to heaven for ABS-CBN is with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano,” Lagman said.
Meanwhile, Ang Probinsyano Party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong has urged the NTC to reconsider its cease-and-desist order against ABS-CBN, calling the directive “ill-timed” given the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is more than enough basis in policy, practice, administrative due process, and equity to support the continued operation of the network while the House of Representatives is still hearing the convoluted issues surrounding its franchise application,” Ong said.
“More importantly, we are in a state of emergency. If we are to heal as one, we need all helping hands and sectors on deck,” the neophyte lawmaker added.