House, not only NTC, also at fault in ABS-CBN shutdown – FLAG | Inquirer News

House, not only NTC, also at fault in ABS-CBN shutdown – FLAG

/ 10:56 PM May 05, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) reminded the public on Tuesday that the buck-passing in the ABS-CBN shutdown should not stop at the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) but also at the House of Representatives for its failure to renew the network’s franchise before its expiration on May 4.

The lawyers’ group said on Tuesday that part of the blame should also fall on Solicitor General Jose Calida, who filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN last February, for supposedly hiding foreign ownership behind a corporate veil.

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NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios earlier said that the cease and desist order stemmed from the questions on the validity of the franchise, although he did not explicitly mention whether it was due to Calida’s quo warranto petition.

“To be sure, the NTC does not deserve all the blame; a large part of it should be shared by those Members of the House of Representatives who refused to even hear the applications for the franchise renewal before the expiration of the franchise,” FLAG said.

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“It should also be shared by the Solicitor General who insisted on filing a quo warranto petition to oust the network of its franchise and even recently pressured its own client, the NTC, against allowing the network to continue operating pending congressional deliberations,” the group added.

Earlier, ABS-CBN stopped its free television and radio broadcasts after the NTC issued a cease-and-desist order a day after the network’s franchise expired.

The network shut down despite the assurance of the NTC to Congress that the network’s broadcast would not be interrupted while its franchise renewal and the issues surrounding it were being discussed at the House of Representatives.

Prior to the shutdown, House leaders, including Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, assured that ABS-CBN would continue operating.

The chair of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, Rep. Franz Alvarez said that NTC might be held in contempt for backtracking on its assurance, which it made under oath.

However, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman had long warned that the network might become a “docile hostage” if Congress should fail to renew the franchise, as it would then fall on the hands of NTC.  He also said that the House had enough time to discuss the issue but just refused to do so.

FLAG, which is chaired by administration critic and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, explained that the NTC order raised several constitutional questions as Congress could still grant the franchise extension, given that several bills had been filed already.

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ABS-CBN has been on the receiving end of criticism from President Rodrigo Duterte for its alleged biased coverage of him and for failing to air his advertisements in the 2016 presidential elections.  Previously, Duterte said that he would see to it that the network would be shut down.

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TAGS: ABS-CBN franchise, AFP Central Command (CentCom), Flag, House committee on legislative franchises, House of Representatives, Jose Calida, NTC
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