The National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) must not be used as the scapegoat for the patent failure of the leadership of the House of Representatives to resolutely push for the seasonable renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.
There is no other solution to the dilemma of ABS-CBN than the immediate renewal of its franchise now that Congress is in session.
I have repeatedly warned that Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s proffered solution for NTC to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate, despite the lapse of its franchise, is against the law and jurisprudence.
Section 16 of RA 7925 or the “Public Telecommunications Policy Act” clearly provides that “No person shall commence or conduct the business of being a public telecommunications entity without first obtaining a franchise.”
Moreover, in Associated Communications and Wireless Services United Broadcasting Networks vs. NTC, the Supreme Court held that “As long as the law remains unchanged, the requirement of a franchise to operate a television station must be upheld.”
It appears that Speaker Cayetano and Commissioner Gamaliel Cordova of NTC were playing charades because after Cordova undertook to grant the provisional authority, the NTC nonetheless issued the cease and desist order for ABS-CBN to stop operations.
The closure of the network giant, which could have been averted by the timely congressional renewal of its franchise, is a flagrant derogation of the freedom of the press.
It could be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte upon assumption to office declared that he will not sign any law renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN because the latter allegedly failed to air some of his paid political advertisements during the 2016 presidential elections.
The President subsequently accepted the explanation and apology of ABS-CBN executives which could have been the go signal for the House to renew the franchise, unless such acceptance was part of the travesty to eventually shut down ABS-CBN for some ulterior motives.
The shuttering of ABC-CBN highlights the verity that the House must exercise its constitutional powers independently and without succumbing to the President’s intervention.
The ABS-CBN is not the only victim of its closure, but also the public who, more than ever, needs and depends on the network’s broadcast information as COVID-19 continues to rampage, as well as thousands of its employees nationwide, indirect workers, and enterprises dependent on the broadcasting network who would lose their jobs and livelihoods.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN
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