MANILA - Media giant ABS-CBN Corp can still operate under "equity considerations" should its bid for a fresh 25-year franchise fail in Congress, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday.
Speaking to reporters outside a Senate hearing on the network's franchise, the justice chief said shuttering ABS-CBN's operations would be deemed "discriminatory."
"May gap 'yong batas eh. Kaya we draw from equity considerations para fair. Para may substantial justice. Para walang agrabyado. As I've said, hindi naman kasalanan no'ng company na hindi pa naaaprubahan ng Kongreso 'yong kaniyang application," he said.
(There's a gap in the law. That's why we draw from equity considerations to be fair. So there will be substantial justice. So no one's aggrieved. As I've said, it's not the company's fault that Congress has not approved its application.)
Equity considerations, Guevarra said, can be applied in any situation when there's a gap in the law.
"It just so happens dito ang gap in the law ay 'yong walang mine-mention in any of our existing laws kung ano ang rights ng isang franchisee na nag-lapse 'yong kaniyang franchise na mayroon pang pending for the renewal of that franchise," he said.
(It just so happens that the gap in the law here, there's no mention in our existing laws of the rights of a franchisee whose franchise lapses while its renewal remains pending.)
As ABS-CBN's franchise is set to expire on March 30, the justice secretary urged Congress to make a resolution authorizing the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue a provisional permit to the network until lawmakers come up with a decision.
Guevarra earlier clarified that ABS-CBN's franchise would expire on May 4, 2020 because its current franchise, which was granted on March 30, 1995, only became effective 15 days after it was published on newspapers.
"It really depends on Congress kung ano 'yong parang parameters na ibibigay ng Congress doon sa authority (what will be the parameters to the authority) to be extended to the NTC... Normally, that provisional authority will continue, will be in effect, unless there's a violation nga," he said.
During the interview, Guevarra said the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) did not consult them on filing a quo warranto petition against the network before the Supreme Court to invalidate its broadcast license over several alleged violations.
ABS-CBN has said it did not violate any provision of its current franchise.
"There were no consultations between the DOJ and the OSG about the quo warranto," he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte, he said, also maintained that ABS-CBN's franchise renewal is a "congressional issue." Duterte had several times said he would oppose the renewal of the network's broadcast license.
"His position is, 'I leave it to Congress because that matter of renewing the franchise is a congressional issue. I don't have a say on that.' Of course, the only participation of the President if he is minded to veto any law that may be enacted by Congress. Even that veto is subject to an override under our Constitution. The President's position, leave it to Congress," he said.
Several bills renewing ABS-CBN's franchise have languished at the House of Representatives, with Duterte ally House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano saying the matter is "not that urgent."
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.