DOJ legal opinion on potential provisional ABS-CBN franchise out next week

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
DOJ legal opinion on potential provisional ABS-CBN franchise out next week
Employees of local broadcast giant ABS-CBN holding placards ask motorists to honk their car horns during a protest in front of ABS-CBN building in Manila on February 14, 2020. Philippine government lawyers moved on February 10 to strip the nation's biggest media group of its operating franchise in what campaigners branded a fresh attack on press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice is looking into the request of the National Telecommunications Commission for input on whether ABS-CBN can continue operating after its franchise expires and while waiting for Congress to act on a proposal to renew it.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed to reporters that the department received the request for a legal opinion “on whether or not ABS-CBN may continue operating after the lapse of the franchise period, pending action by the Congress on the franchise renewal bills.”

The Justice chief said they received the request on Tuesday afternoon and intend to reply next week.

Sen. Grace Poe said earlier this week that the NTC can issue a provisional franchise, citing instances of telecommunication companies Smart and Globe.

“If I’m not mistaken, all of them, their franchises had lapsed while bills had been filed and pending before Congress, that’s why the NTC extended them, or NTC was silent about it,” the senator said.

Congress hearing

Broadcast giant ABS-CBN is racing against time to renew its legislative franchise that is set to end on March 30, but bills for its renewal remain pending at the House of Representatives.

The Senate, meanwhile, is set to hold its first public hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal on Monday, September 24.

Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services, said the inquiry will also tackle the supposed franchise violations of the network.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would rather not have the franchise renewed. He has accused ABS-CBN of not airing his campaign advertisements, but presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte’s threats should not be taken literally.

The Senate hearing will be conducted ahead of the transmission of the counterpart bill from the House of Representatives.

ABS-CBN is also facing a quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court. DUterte’s chief lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida, asked the tribunal to revoke the network’s franchise last week.

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