MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on legislative franchises is “enjoining” the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to grant a provisional authority to ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiaries so the network may continue operating pending the renewal of its soon-to-expire franchise.
House panel chair Franz Alvarez wrote a letter to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba on Wednesday, February 26. The House leadership believes that would be enough for the country’s largest media network to keep operating while Congress still deliberates on the bills renewing the media network's curent franchise, set to expire on May 4.
“As the House of Representatives has the exclusive original jurisdiction and authority to act on franchise applications, we enjoin you to grant ABS-CBN Corporation a provisional authority to operate effective May 4, 2020, until such time that the House of Representatives/Congress has made a decision on its application,” Alvarez said in the letter.
He also urged NTC to issue a provisional authority to operate to ABS-CBN Corporation’s subsidiaries:
Alvarez, however, is leaving it up to NTC to decide the “terms and conditions you deem appropriate to protect public interest consistent with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”
House cmte on legislative franchises chair Franz Alvarez writes a letter to NTC "enjoining" the agency to grant a provisional authority to ABS-CBN to continue operating "from May 4, 2020 until such time that the Congress has made a decision on its application." @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/N1OVKWvAmb — Mara Cepeda (@maracepeda) February 26, 2020
This letter is consistent with an earlier statement of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who said a notice from the panel should be “more than sufficient” for the NTC to allow ABS-CBN to continue operating even if its franchise expires pending Congress proceedings.
Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra also said Congress may authorize the NTC to give ABS-CBN the provisional permit to continue operating after the lapse of its franchise.
When sought for comment on Wednesday, Gueverra was quite surprised the House panel followed his suggestion. Still, he said the letter is "enough" for NTC to issue ABS-CBN the provisional authority to operate.
"The authorization from the House franchise committee is enough for NTC purposes. But a similar resolution from the Senate will provide a tougher armor to the NTC in the event of a legal challenge," Gueverra told reporters.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon already filed a concurrent resolution that, if adopted by the Senate, would "express its sense" to allow ABS-CBN to operate beyond the expiration of its franchise on May 4.
While the Senate already conducted its first hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal on Monday, February 24, the House started formal proceedings by merely asking all stakeholders to submit position papers.
Both Cayetano and Alvarez are still bent on holding a hearing only in May or early August, when ABS-CBN’s franchise would have already expired.