Advising NTC is not meddling in ABS-CBN franchise issue – OSG
MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida has stressed that his advice to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) — his client — which stopped the operation of ABS-CBN’s free television and radio broadcasts, is not a way of meddling in the franchise issue.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said on Tuesday that Calida would welcome the initiative of lawmakers to start discussing the franchise issue of ABS-CBN in Congress, as it is consistent with his advice to NTC, that the media giant could not operate without a franchise from the legislative body.
NTC assured Congress in hearings before ABS-CBN’s franchise expired last May 4 that a provisional authority might be issued to the network to ensure its operation until the franchise could be deliberated by lawmakers. However, NTC issued a cease-and desist-order (CDO) after Calida wrote the commission a letter why that could not be done.
“Solicitor General Jose C. Calida welcomes the initiative of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Senator Sherwin Gatchalian in beginning the process of tackling whether or not a legislative franchise will be granted to ABS-CBN,” the OSG said in a statement.
“This move is consistent with the position of the Solicitor General that under Act No. 3846 and P.D. No. 576-A, a franchise is required to operate radio and television stations in the Philippines. Congress has the exclusive and plenary power to grant that franchise, which must specifically be in the form of a statute,” they added.
Last February 2020, Calida filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN for allegedly using corporate veils to hide foreign ownership. And prior to the expiration of ABS-CBN’s franchise, Calida told NTC that it could not give ABS-CBN a provisional authority to allow the network to operate.
In an interview with ABS-CBN’s radio station DZMM, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said that the beleaguered network could not be allowed to continue operating because there were questions in the validity of ABS-CBN’s franchise — unlike other broadcasting firms whose permits also expired.
Cabarios did not explicitly mention, however, whether the questions posed in Calida’s quo warrant served as a basis for the NTC order.
Cayetano previously slammed Calida for the latter’s alleged “unconstitutional meddling,” even warning the Solicitor General that there would be a day of reckoning.
The OSG insisted that Calida was not trying to clash with Cayetano, saying that warning and advising a client like NTC was not threatening or meddling. OSG also clarified that Calida could have chosen not to inform Cayetano and Congress about the letter to NTC, as he was not required to do so.
However, Calida agreed with Cayetano’s move to discuss the network’s alleged violations.
“There is no reason for the Solicitor General to pick up a fight with Congress. In fact, he agrees with Speaker Cayetano on the need to conduct an impartial, fair, and thorough investigation to ventilate all issues for or against the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise,” the OSG explained.
“These issues must be resolved first before a bill authorizing ABS-CBN to operate is passed, even if what is being granted is only a provisional franchise. Certainly, one cannot put the cart before the horse,” they added.
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