‘Unacceptable’: Senate panel orders NTC to attend next ABS-CBN franchise hearing
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate public services committee will require the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to appear in the next hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise after some senators questioned the regulator’s failure to attend Tuesday’s hearing.
The Senate public services committee opened its hearing on four pending Senate bills either seeking to grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise or to give the network a temporary franchise.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who was designated to lead the hearings, said the NTC officials sent a letter invoking the sub judice rule as a reason for their absence.
ABS-CBN earlier filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to temporarily stop the implementation of the cease-and-desist order the NTC issued against the network.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered NTC to comment on ABS-CBN’s petition.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said that NTC’s refusal to attend the hearing on the basis of the sub judice rule is “unacceptable.”
“I believe using such a reason that there is a pending case to evade or avoid a congressional hearing… is unacceptable. Otherwise, given all the cases that are pending in various courts against government agencies or its employees, they will all invoke sub judice in order to avoid attending Senate hearings,” Pangilinan pointed out.
“I believe legislative precedents will bear us out that such an invocation has not been recognized or has not been given weight by the Senate in previous hearings, in previous Congresses,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri also said he finds the NTCs’s absence in the hearing “a bit irregular.”
He said the Senate would need to ask the NTC on whether or not it would “interpose any objection” to granting ABS-CBN a new franchise.
“They may invoke the right not to answer on sub judice issues when the issue per se entails the case filed with the Supreme Court, however…we still have to ask the regulator if they interpose any objection on the issuance of a new franchise to ABS-CBN,” Zubiri said.
“We ask that to all regulators of all agencies. That is an important point that we have to ask them, if they do not attend the next hearing, they primarily waive their right to make any comment of this particular issue because they must comment,” he added.
Gatchalian then assured the senators that the committee would mandate the NTC to attend succeeding hearings on the matter.
“We will mandate them to appear in the next hearing… I do agree that there are administrative matters and procedural matters that could be answered and should be answered by the NTC,” he said.
“However, they can always invoke the sub judice rule if the matters pertaining to the case itself will be discussed and we will make sure that in the next hearing, they will be attending to answer administrative and procedural issues,” he added.
A day after its franchise lapsed on May 4, ABS-CBN went off the air in compliance with the cease-and-desist order issued by the NTC directing the network to shut down its TV and radio broadcasting operations nationwide.
This, despite NTC’s earlier assurance that it would grant a provisional authority to ABS-CBN as Congress deliberates on the network’s pending franchise renewal.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.