13 senators to NTC: Reconsider ABS-CBN shutdown order

MANILA, Philippines — At least 13 senators on Thursday urged the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to reconsider the cease-and-desist order it issued against ABS-CBN after its franchise lapsed on May 4.

ABS-CBN, one of the country’s major broadcast networks, was forced off the air after the NTC ordered the shutdown of its television and radio broadcasting stations nationwide “absent a valid congressional franchise required by law.”

Thirteen senators filed Senate Resolution No. 395 “expressing the sense of the Senate to urge the (NTC) to reconsider its cease and desist order against ABS-CBN Corporation and to allow the continuous operation of ABS-CBN Corporation, its subsidiaries and affiliates ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., Sky Cable Corporation, and AMCARA Broadcasting Nework, Inc., pending the disposition of its franchise renewal.”

The senators had argued that there is precedent for entities whose franchises have expired to be allowed continued operations pending the approval of its franchise renewal.

The lawmakers cited cases of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Broadcast and the Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp (PT&T).

“Now more than ever, in the middle of the biggest public health crisis of our generation, the Filipino people deserve access to up-to-date news provided by a free and unfettered media, and multiple sources of information provide the best pathways for the truth to emerge,” the resolution read.

The resolution was signed and filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Sherwin Gatchalian, Leila de Lima, Lito Lapid, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, and Joel Villanueva.

The senators further stressed that the cease-and-desist order against the network would impact thousands of its workers and create joblessness “that could not be more ill-timed given the looming economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The senators also reminded the NTC of the legal opinion issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that ABS-CBN may continue its operations pending the renewal of its legislative franchise based on equity.

They also pointed out there is a memorandum order released by the NTC allowing all existing permits, certificates and licenses, which would expire within the period of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), to remain valid 60 days after the end of the government-imposed quarantine.

“This suggests that there is enough basis in policy and in practice to allow ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiaries and/or affiliates to continue their operations pending the renewal of their respective franchises,” the resolution stated.

Senators have previously adopted a resolution in March authorizing the NTC to grant provisional authority to ABS-CBN as Congress deliberates on its franchise renewal application. The House of Representatives did the same through a letter to the commission in February.

The NTC assured both chambers of Congress that it would issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN but a day after the network’s franchise expired, the commission ordered its shutdown.

On Thursday, ABS-CBN filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to temporarily stop the implementation of the cease-and-desist order the NTC issued against the network.

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