ABS-CBN can operate on solons' authority pending new franchise: DOJ

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2020 11:48 AM

MANILA -- Congress may come up with a concurrent resolution to ensure that ABS-CBN Corp will remain in operation pending approval of its application for a fresh 25-year franchise, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told senators on Monday.

Senators looking into the ABS-CBN's supposed franchise violations sought clarification from the justice department with the fate of network hanging in the balance once its current franchise expires on March 30.

“Congress, by a concurrent resolution, may authorize the National Telecommunications Commission to issue a provisional authority subject to such terms and conditions as the NTC may deem fit,” said Guevarra, who clarified that the ABS-CBN franchise would in fact lapse on May 4, 2020.

But Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and other senators pressed NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba over concerns that the regulatory body could also withdraw such a provisional franchise while the renewal bills were still being heard.

“Considering there is no more franchise, since it has already lapsed, then we can withdraw the provisional authority at any time, subject to the conditions,” Cordona replied.

Cordoba said the terms and conditions could be placed in the joint congressional resolution.

Drilon earlier filed a proposed resolution extending ABS-CBN’s franchise until the end of 2022, while Congress continued to deliberate on its proposed franchise renewal.

“The (provisional) authority must not be in an administrative nature that can be withdrawn at any time because of its implications to press freedom,” Drilon said in the hearing.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto sought to clarify if the NTC had any pending issues against ABS-CBN, to which Cordoba said there was none.

“So you are the regulator and you are not complaining of any penalty, so far (and) were we are talking about the possibility of closing ABS-CBN,” Recto said.

“In effect, parang capital punishment (it's like capital punishment)… death penalty.”

Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier filed a quo warranto petition seeking to shut down ABS-CBN for its alleged franchise violations.

“Bakit natin isasara kung wala naman palang penalty sa inyo? Assuming may penalty, pag multahin na lang. Bakit kailangang isara?" Recto said.

(Why will you close it down if it doesn't owe you penalties? Assuming there are penalties, just fine them. Why shut it down?)