Guevarra stands firm: Broadcast companies may operate pending franchise renewal
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 stands firm: Broadcast companies may operate pending franchise renewal
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - May 4, 2020 - 3:19pm

MANILA, Philippines — Contradicting Solicitor General Jose Calida, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday stood firm on his previous position that broadcast networks can continue operations pending congressional action on franchise renewal bills.

“The DOJ stands by its position that there is sufficient equitable basis to allow broadcast entities to continue operating while the bills for the renewal of their franchise remain pending with Congress,” Guevarra told reporters.

This comes after Calida, on Sunday, warned the National Telecommunications Commission that its officials may face graft charges should it allow ABS-CBN to operate, on provisional authority, beyond its franchise expiry on Monday, May 4.

At least 11 bills for the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise are in the House of Representatives’ legislative mill.

Status quo

Guevarra stressed that while laws provide that legislative franchise must first be obtained by persons or entities seeking to operate a TV or radio station, there is “no law” on the rights of  those previously granted legislative franchise, have been operating for years, and have applied for renewal, “but for reasons not attributable to said person or entity,” the legislative has yet to act on the proposed measures.

The justice chief also said that there have been similar situations in the past where the Congress “allowed the status quo,” even without urging the NTC, “in consideration of the equities of the situation.”

While the NTC said in a House hearing last March 10 that it will heed DOJ’s guidance and “let ABS-CBN continue operations based on equity,” it remains to be seen whether the commission will follow through after Calida’s statement.

Calida has also sought to revoke ABS-CBN’s franchise before the Supreme Court, citing supposed franchise violations, which the network has denied.

Guevarra also said Calida’s argument based on Associated Communications & Wireless Services v. NTC that nullified a DOJ legal opinion that the commission may issue a permit without a legislative franchise does not apply to ABS-CBN’s case.

The DOJ chief said that in the cited case, the entity did not have an original franchise, but ABS-CBN “had already been granted a franchise and a license to operate, albeit subject to further deliberations for its renewal.”

Palace: ABS-CBN fate beyond franchise expiry up to NTC

The Palace meanwhile is leaving ABS-CBN’s fate to the NTC.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a briefing that ABS-CBN’s franchise issue “has to be dealt with by NTC, as a quasi-judicial body.”

“Let us wait for the answer of the NTC and the president will implement what will be the decision of the NTC,” Roque added.

The network in the past earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte for supposedly being biased against the government apologized in February. CEO Carlo Katigbak said: “We’re sorry if we offended the president, that was not the intention of the network.”

Duterte said he accepted the network’s apology but he also said that he cannot stop Calida.

The expiry of ABS-CBN’s franchise comes at a time when the Philippines and the rest of the globe is dealing with COVID-19 pandemic that infected millions worldwide. 

Related video:

ABS-CBN CORP. ABS-CBN FRANCHISE JOSE CALIDA MENARDO GUEVARRA
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