Drilon wants NTC execs axed for ‘incompetence’ after ABS-CBN closure
MANILA, Philippines — Top officials of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) should be “fired for incompetence,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Thursday.
In a text message to reporters, Drilon said NTC commissioners gravely abused its discretion when it ordered the closure of ABS-CBN despite its previous assurance to Congress that it would allow the network’s continued operations pending the renewal of its franchise.
“The Commissioners should be fired for incompetence,” he said.
The senator, a former justice secretary, said NTC’s decision to shut down ABS-CBN caused “damage to society by depriving people of a major source of information on the pandemic and causing the loss of jobs of 11,000 workers of ABS-CBN.”
“The commissioners also displayed ignorance of the law when they disregarded precedents and the opinion of the DOJ (Department of Justice),” he added.
“After they reneged on their commitment to Congress, there is a total loss of confidence in their ability to discharge their duties according to law,” Drilon continued.
In the House of Representatives, House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr. filed a bill seeking to abolish NTC and transferring its powers and functions to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
“Its failure all these years to involve sanctions against the companies poorly serving the people’s telecommunications needs is a perfect reason to abolish it already,” Abante said in the bill’s explanatory note.
“But the latest act of the NTC in issuing a cease and desist order against broadcast company ABS-CBN is a slap in the face of Congress and an outright act of defiance,” he added.
In February, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chair of the House legislative franchises committee, sent a letter to NTC urging it to grant a provisional authority to ABS-CBN effective on May 4 until Congress has made a decision on its franchise renewal bid.
During a subsequent hearing in March, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said they will issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN so the media giant can continue its operations even after its franchise expires on May 4.
Cordoba even told the House panel that this decision was based on the DOJ opinion that says ABS-CBN can still operate beyond May 4 based on equity considerations.
The Senate likewise adopted a resolution urging NTC to grant ABS-CBN provisional authority to continue its business while Congress deliberates on proposed measures for the renewal of the broadcast network’s franchise.
But despite all these proceedings, NTC issued on May 5 a cease and desist order directing ABS-CBN to stop operating its television and radio broadcasting stations nationwide after its 25-year franchise lapsed on May 4.
NTC cited Republic Act No. 3846 or the Radio Control Law, which states that “no person, firm, company, association, or corporation shall construct, install, establish, or operate a radio transmitting station, or radio receiving station used for commercial purposes, or a radio broadcasting station, without having first obtained a franchise therefor from the Congress of the Philippines.”
Thus, with the expiration of the Republic Act. No 7966, which granted ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise to operate its TV and radio broadcasting stations, NTC said the media network “no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise as required by Act No. 3846.
Heeding NTC’s order, ABS-CBN went off the air at 7:52 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5.
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