House should hurry with network's franchise renewal bills - Panganiban
MANILA — A petition by the government's lead lawyer was an incorrect way to strip ABS-CBN Corp. of its franchise, the former head of the judiciary said Friday, as he urged lawmakers to renew the license of the country's largest media network.
A quo warranto should cite abuses that were committed before a franchise is granted or an official is appointed. The alleged violations raised against ABS-CBN were supposedly committed after it secured its license, said former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.
"Ang quo warranto ba ang nararapat na remedyo para mawalan ng operasyon ang ABS-CBN? Hindi po," he told ABS-CBN News' Karen Davila.
(Is the quo warranto the right remedy to scrap the operation of ABS-CBN? No.)
Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the Supreme Court in a quo warranto petition to nullify ABS-CBN's franchise, set to expire on May 4, due to alleged abuses like illegal pay-per-view offering and foreign ownership.
The House of Representatives has yet to tackle several bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN's license to operate. The Senate held a hearing on Monday on the network's compliance with its current franchise, where ABS-CBN executives clarified it did not violate license provisions.
"Bagama't nagkaroon na po ng hearing sa Senado, wala pong mangyayari doon kung hindi sisimulan ng House of Representatives. Naniniwala po ako na andoon ang susi," said Puno.
"Sana naman bilisan nila, iyon ang talagang solusyon," he added.
(Even though there was a hearing at the Senate, nothing would come out of that if the House of Representatives would not start tackling the franchise bills. I believe the key is there. I hope they would act quicker, that is the solution.)
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had said discussing ABS-CBN franchise was "not that urgent" because it could operate until 2022, the end of the 18th Congress.
But on Wednesday, the House franchise committee asked the National Telecommunications Commission to give the media giant a "provisional" permit to operate past its franchise expiration.
The NTC previously gave provisional permits to Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp., Smart Communications Inc. and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, noted Panganiban.
"Masama naman pong hindi rin [ito] mangyari sa ABS-CBN. Ika nga, equity, fair play, ordinary justice -- pare-pareho dapat ang tingin," he said.
(It would be bad if this won't happen to ABS-CBN, too. As they say, there should be equity, fair play, ordinary justice -- all should get the same treatment.)
However, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno was quoted in a media report that ABS-CBN could no longer operate once its legislative franchise expired, even if it secured an NTC permit.
He cited a 2003 Supreme Court ruling on the Associated Communications & Wireless Services-United Broadcasting Networks (ACWS).
ACWS had no franchise when the NTC granted it a provisional permit, making its case different from that of ABS-CBN, said Panganiban.
"Hindi puwedeng gamitin iyong decision na iyon dito," he said.
(That decision cannot be used here.)
"Every decision is good only in accordance with its factual background. Kung hindi po pareho ang factual background, hindi po pareho ang desisyon," he added.
(If the factual background is not the same, the decision will not be the same.)
The network, which reaches millions of Filipinos through its television, radio and online platforms, said it "did not violate the law" in its 65-year service.
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.