NTC exec admits ABS-CBN shutdown order borne of ‘questions’ on its franchise validity
MANILA, Philippines – The cease and desist order (CDO) issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against ABS-CBN was brought about by “questions” on the network giant’s franchise validity, an official of the commission said.
Interviewed over dzMM, the radio arm of ABS-CBN, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios was asked why other broadcast outfits were allowed to operate — like in the case of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) — even if their franchises have already expired.
Cabarios said that when the franchises were being discussed and deliberated in Congress, the NTC was enjoined to recognize the network until the end of the Congress.
“When these franchises were discussed and deliberated sa Congress, that Congress said that while the franchise renewal is being deliberated, eh i-recognize ‘yan until the end of the Congress, so we did not issue anything because of that,” Cabarios said.
“Kaya nga lang this time, merong nag-raise ng issue sa validity of the franchise eh, so we have no other option but to issue the CDO,” he added.
While he did not mention what kind of questions were raised on ABS-CBN’s franchise that merited the NTC’s cease and desist order, Solicitor General Jose Calida previously filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court against the network for supposedly using a corporate veil in hiding foreign ownership.
The deputy NTC chief was also asked whether the commission had considered the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic before issuing its cease and desist order, as the network has one of the widest coverages of the health crisis, to which.
Cabarios insisted that they cannot turn a blind eye on the allegations raised against ABS-CBN. But when asked if Calida’s previous warning had anything to do with the NTC’s decision, Cabarios said it was a result of their legal team’s study.
“Tinignan din po ‘yan, ‘yon nga lang merong issue na nag-raise on the validity of the franchise eh, so hindi naman pupwede sabi ng aming legal team na, we could not close our eyes kasi merong issue na na-raise sa franchise,” he explained.
“Wala naman ho, wala naman, as I have said, pinag-aralang mabuti ng aming legal team, so ang naging konklusyon ay ‘yan, so the reason why we issued the CDO,” he added.
Earlier, the NTC has released a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN’s free television and radio broadcasts, after their legislative franchise expired on May 4. This was despite the House of Representatives asking the body to grant a provisional franchise to the network.
Prior to that, and as the country marked World Press Freedom Day, the OSG issued a warning to the NTC against granting ABS-CBN provisional authority to operate while the approval of its franchise is pending in Congress.
Several personalities including Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate believe that NTC’s release of such order stems from a subservience to Calida, even if House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano already asked the commission to ensure ABS-CBN’s uninterrupted broadcast.
ABS-CBN has been on the receiving end of criticism from President Rodrigo Duterte for their alleged biased coverage of him, and for failing to air his political advertisements in the last presidential campaign.
Previously, Duterte said that he would see to it that the network is shut down. Eventually, he advised the network’s bosses to just sell the media corporation.
While Congress may act on the issue by renewing the franchise, recent circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible for physical hearings to be conducted in Congress.
On the other hand, Zarate says ABS-CBN is one of the country’s networks that has provided a wide coverage of the pandemic, emphasizing its role as an information disseminator and a relief organization.
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