By Jeffrey Damicog
ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise has not yet expired due to the current public health emergency that President Duterte himself declared, a lawyer argued in a petition he filed before the Supreme Court (SC).
“To set the record straight, the franchises of ABS-CBN are not yet expired,” reads Atty. Paris Real’s 168-page petition.
The SC has been asked to nullify the May 5 cease and desist order (CDO) issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) that forced the media giant to stop broadcasting operations.
The NTC had previously stated that the CDO was issued because ABS-CBN’s 25-year legislative franchise had expired last May 4.
“The expirations of the Franchises of ABS-CBN and its Permits to Operate, Certificates and Licenses from the NTC, were interrupted, tolled and/or suspended by the aforesaid Emergency Laws during the Community Quarantine and the same shall ‘continue to be valid sixty (60) days after the end of the government-imposed quarantine period,’” explained Real, who pointed out the legislative franchise should expire on July 31.
“In fact, the same Emergency Laws mandate that the ‘holders of these permits, certificates and licenses shall be given sixty (60) days from the end of the government-imposed quarantine period to file for the renewal of their permits, certificates and licenses, without penalties or surcharges,’” he added.
The lawyer pointed out that President Duterte issued on March 8 Proclamation No. 929 which declared “A State of Public Health Emergency Throughout the Philippines” and on March 16, Proclamation No. 929 which declared “A State of Calamity Throughout the Philippines Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019” for “a period of six months, unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant.”
In compliance with these proclamations, the NTC issued on March 16 Memorandum Order No. 01-03-2020 regarding the “Implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine Over Entire Luzon Island Including Metro Manila.”
The lawyer said the memorandum specifically mandates that “(a)ll subsisting permits, permits necessary to operate and maintain telecommunication facilities nationwide, shall automatically be renewed and shall continue to be valid sixty (60) days after the end of the government-imposed quarantine period.”
The NTC also issued on March 18, 2020 Memorandum Order No. 03-03-2020 “Extending the Validity of NTC Issued Permits and Certificates and Licenses During the COVID-19 Enhanced Community Quarantine” which also states that these “shall continue to be valid sixty (60) days after the end of the government-imposed quarantine period.”
“Verily, the NTC’s ‘unlawful exclusion of (ABS-CBN) from the use and enjoyment of a right (franchise) or office to which (ABS-CBN) is entitled’ on May 5, 2020 (which happened ‘during the Community Quarantine and for sixty (60) days thereafter’), has seriously transgressed the true spirit and intent of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Republic Act No. 11469) and its allied Emergency Laws and Policies,” the lawyer wrote.