Stopping ABS-CBN operations is prior restraint
There are two questions in the current debate on ABS-CBN.
First, will the Supreme Court decide before March 30 on Solicitor General Jose Calida’s prayer that the network’s broadcast and telecom franchise be revoked and grant his petition for a permanent ban on its digital pay-per-view Kapamilya Box Office?
Second, will the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issue a “provisional authority” to ABS-CBN after its old franchise expires on March 30 as Congress tackles its application for a new one?
Former presidential spokesperson and professor Harry Roque, in my radio-TV interview on Monday, believes that the high tribunal will not issue a ruling and just let Congress decide on “alleged franchise violations,”thus effectively rendering the solicitor general’s petition “moot and academic.”
From today until March 30, there is a presumption of “unconstitutionality”on violations of the old broadcast and telecom franchise of ABS-CBN unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise, says Roque.
He adds that the NTC cannot be forced to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN after its franchise expires because of issues raised by Calida. Also, since the NTC is within the executive branch, it is technically within Calida’s jurisdiction. Therefore, there is a real possibility it might refuse to accommodate the network.
This is why senators and congressmen are pushing for an urgent public hearing or the adoption of a joint concurrent resolution to commit the NTC to maintain the “status quo” while the new broadcast and telecom franchise bills of ABS-CBN Corp. and ABS-CBN Convergence are being deliberated on.But over and above these, ABS-CBN’s future is hinged upon both the Supreme Court and the NTC.
From my view, the government can penalize the network and its officers over franchise violations, but it cannot stop it from operating.
This is simply prior restraint on a free press.
* * *
We Filipinos are not immune to COVID-19, as 27 of our compatriots were found positive for the new coronavirus inside the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan. This opens the possibility of a local community transmission occurring in the future, particularly in closed environments like residential condominiums in Metro Manila and other urban areas.
In Hong Kong, several residential buildings are now under quarantine with families told to stay home for about two weeks. They wear tracking wristbands. Failure to comply means jail or a hefty fine. Will this scenario happen here?
Coronavirus is worrying a lot of people and everybody hopes the Department of Health (DOH) and the entire government machinery are ready for community transmission. Today, upscale condominiums are conducting thermal checks on residents aside from a physical examination of each unit. These are excellent preventive measures because contamination is highly possible.
But I believe that the DOH, as early as possible, should publicly announce its protocols on community transmission so that residents in villages, subdivisions and buildings can respond correctly in case of confirmed cases.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.