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BREAK: NTC execs ordered to explain why they should not be cited in contempt over ABS-CBN shutdown

/ 12:41 PM May 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The House committee on legislative franchises has ordered officials of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to explain why they should not be cited in contempt after the commission directed media giant ABS-CBN to stop its broadcast operations.

In an order dated May 5 issued by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, who chairs the House committee on legislative franchises, several NTC officials are given 72 hours from the receipt of the order to provide an explanation.

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A copy of the Order to the NTC was only obtained by the media on Monday.

“You are ordered to explain within 72 hours from receipt of this Order why you should not be cited in contempt or proceeded against for issuing an Order to ABS-CBN Corporation to immediately cease and desist from operating its radio and television stations after having assured the House of Representatives, during the hearing of the Committee on Legislative Franchises in 10 March 2020, that the NTC will let the ABS-CBN Corporation continue its operations until Congress has finally disposed of the franchise renewal bills, consistent with precedents and practice and the position of the Department of Justice as well as the clear directive of the House of Representatives that ABS-CBN Corporation should be allowed to continue to operate until such time that Congress has made a decision on its application,” Alvarez said in the order.

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“The act of the NTC constitutes undue interference on and disobedience to the exercise of the power of the House of Representatives, and therefore, an affront to its dignity and an inexcusable disrespect of its authority,” he added.

Alvarez said the NTC officials’ failure to comply with the Order will result in a “finding against you for contempt of the House of Representatives and subject you to other actions that are within the powers of the House of Representatives to enforce.”

The order was addressed to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios, Deputy Commissioner Delilah Deles, and Legal Branch Head Ella Blanca Lopez.

While the order was dated May 5, the Office of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said that the order was only issued to the NTC on Monday, May 11.

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What happened before?

The 11 bills seeking the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN remain pending before the House committee on legislative franchises, the earliest of which, at least in the 18th Congress, was filed in July 2019.

While the bills were pending in the lower chamber Cayetano, on numerous occasions assured that ABS-CBN would not shut down its operations even if its franchises lapses.

On May 4, the same day Congress resumed its sessions from their Lenten break, ABS-CBN’s franchise expired.

In assuring that ABS-CBN will continue its operations while Congress tackles the bills seeking its renewal, House leaders banked on the NTC granting the network a provisional authority to operate.

Thus in February, Cayetano and Alvarez sent a letter to the NTC enjoining the commission to grant a provisional authority to operate to ABS-CBN effective on May 4, 2020, “until such time that the House of Representatives/Congress has made a decision on its application.”

On March 10, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told members of the House that they will follow the advice of the Department of Justice (DOJ), allowing ABS-CBN to operate while its franchise renewal bid is pending in Congress.

But on May 5, the NTC issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN, directing the network to stop its broadcast operations since its franchise had already expired.

The cease and desist order came two days after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned NTC against issuing a provisional authority to operate to ABS-CBN.

Hours after the issuance of the cease and desist order against ABS-CBN, Alvarez said NTC may be held in contempt for backtracking on its word.

“On record sila, under oath sila nung sinabi na sila ay magi-issue ng provisional authority kaya gusto nating malaman, anong nangyari at bakim sila biglang nagbacktrack?” Alvarez said in a radio interview.

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TAGS: ABS-CBN, ABS-CBN franchise, ABS-CBN shutdown
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