NTC will allow ABS-CBN to operate beyond May 4 unless courts intervene

MANILA, Philippines – The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) will allow ABS-CBN to operate beyond its franchise expiry on May 4 until the end of the 18th Congress, unless there is "restraint" from the courts.

In a media interview on Wednesday, March 11, NTC Deputy Commissioner Ed Cabarrios said that they will follow the advice of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra that a concurrent resolution would suffice as basis to issue a provisional authority to the media giant. The Senate adopted Senate Resolution No. 40 to address exactly that.

Asked whether nothing can stop the NTC now, Cabarrios told reporters, "Yes, unless may (there is) restraint from the courts."

The Senate, led by Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, turned over the adopted resolution to the NTC.

If the Senate resolution is questioned before the court, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said they would inform the courts that it was done on the basis of equity as advised by Guevarra.

"Dapat pagbigyan [ang] provisional authority at dapat magpatuloy ang broadcast ng ABS-CBN. 'Yan po ang opinion ng secretary of justice at sinabi niya na mas mabuti na gawan ng concurrent resolution, kaya pinasa namin," Drilon said.

(We should grant provisional authority and we should allow the broadcast operations of ABS-CBN to continue. That's the opinion of the secretary of justice, that it's better to pass a concurrent resolution, that's why we passed one.)

Cabarrios confirmed that the provisional authority would be valid until the end of the 18th Congress. 

"The provisional authority should be until the life of this Congress, and the deputy commissioner just confirmed that now. This is important because a shorter provisional authority would subject ABS-CBN to pressure and that is not consistent with the freedom of the press," Drilon said.

The House panel on legislative franchises had written a letter to the NTC asking the agency to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN after May 4.

The panel adopted the letter on Tuesday, March 10, as its "official position" on the matter. The lower chamber, so far, did not adopt any resolution similar to the Senate. (READ: Cayetano: House notice to NTC 'sufficient' to allow ABS-CBN to keep operating)

ABS-CBN's 25-year franchise was approved through Republic Act No. 7966 on March 30, 1995, and became effective 15 days after its publication on April 19 that year. This means that ABS-CBN's franchise will expire on May 4, 2020.  Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.