Guevarra: NTC not compelled to obey Congress on ABS-CBN's provisional franchise
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is one of the resource persons at the Senate inquiry into bills on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal and the network’s supposed violations held February 24, 2020.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo

Guevarra: NTC not compelled to obey Congress on ABS-CBN's provisional franchise

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - March 6, 2020 - 4:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — The National Telecommunications Commission is not compelled to obey the letter from the House of Representatives and resolution from the Senate expressing that the commission may grant provisional authority to the ABS-CBN, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

The House Committee on Legislative Franchises, on February 26, wrote to the NTC to “enjoin you to grant ABS-CBN Corp. a provisional authority to operate effective May 4, 2020 until such time that the House of Representatives or congress has made a decision on its application.”

The Senate, for its part, on Thursday approved a resolution expressing its sense that ABS-CBN should be allowed to operate beyond May 4, pending congressional action on its renewal bills.

But Guevarra said that these “cannot be construed as direct orders of the legislature that the NTC is legally compelled to obey.”

Senate inquiry

During the Senate inquiry into ABS-CBN franchise renewal on February 24, Guevarra said that Congress, through a concurrent resolution, may authorize the NTC to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN that will let them continue operating pending their application for renewal.

Guevarra later included this in a legal guidance he sent to the NTC where he said: “There is nothing in our existing laws which declares that the franchisee can continue to operate pending the renewal of its franchise; neither is there anything in these laws which prohibits the franchisee from operating until Congress acts on the bill for the renewal of the franchise.”

He also said that a concurrent resolution from the Congress authorizing the NTC will create “a more stable legal environment.”

During the same hearing, senators asked if the provisional authority that the NTC may grant to ABS-CBN can be withdrawn anytime.

NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told the panel: "The NTC, considering that there is no more franchise, since it has already lapsed, we can withdraw the provisional authority anytime but subject to conditions."

Senate Minority Franklin Drilon said that a joint congressional resolution may grant at least three years of provisional authority to operate so that lawmakers may deliberate on the network’s franchise and supposed violations.

"We subject [ourselves] to the wisdom of the legislative," Cordoba replied.

Gadon petition

Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay), however, said that the NTC provisional authority is just an “alternative relief” that puts ABS-CBN “into a quagmire of legal problems.”

The House panel’s letter to the NTC is being challenged at the Supreme Court, a petition that Lagman said is not surprising.

Guevarra also explained that a concurrent resolution from the Congress is not meant to replace a supposed franchise law for the network.

“No one ever said that a resolution can replace a full-fledged franchise law,” he said.

 “Here, we are talking about a vacuum that arises when a franchise expires and the Congress has yet to act on the franchise renewal bill,” Guevarra also said.

The Justice chief however said that he “welcomes” the legal challenged filed by Gadon as it “presents a very interesting question of law.”

ABS-CBN ABS-CBN FRANCHISE LARRY GADON MENARDO GUEVARRA SUPREME COURT
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