Calida: NTC did its job; lawmakers failed to do theirs
A guard passes logo of ABS-CBN at the network’s compound, a day it was ordered shut by National Telecommunications Commission, May 6, 2020.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Calida: NTC did its job; lawmakers failed to do theirs

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - May 6, 2020 - 4:11pm

MANILA, Philippines — Solicitor General Jose Calida, who earlier asked the Supreme Court to revoke ABS-CBN’s franchise for supposed violations, said criticisms over the closure of the media network should be directed at Congress.

He said the National Telecommunications Commission, which he warned Sunday could face graft charges if it issues the network a provisional authority to operate, was just doing its job.

“Why blame NTC when they are only following the law? Without a valid and subsisting franchise from Congress, the NTC cannot allow any broadcasting entity from operating in the country,” Calida said in a statement issued a day after the broadcast giant ceased operations.

"The bill renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise has been pending in Congress since 2016. The question we should be asking is, why hasn’t Congress acted on it? Who is at fault here?" he added.

This comes after Calida, on Sunday—incidentally World Press Freedom Day—warned NTC against honoring a commitment in March that it would issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN to allow it to operate, pending congressional action on bills on its franchise.

He argued that “there is no such law giving the NTC or any other agency the power to grant franchises to broadcasting entities.”

This position contrasts with that of the justice department that issued legal guidance to the commission that “there is sufficient equitable basis” to allow broadcasters to continue operations while bills for its franchise renewal are pending.

The regulatory body, in the end, issued a cease and desist order Tuesday afternoon, forcing the network to stop broadcasting. The last time that ABS-CBN ceased broadcasting was during ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos' martial law.

Calida said that his office's advice to the regulatory body was part of its duty as counsel of the NTC.

"The OSG has the duty to advise the NTC of what is legal or not. We will be abdicating our duty to the NTC if we don’t advise them of the legal consequences of their actions," he added.

Calida also hailed the regulatory body’s order as “triumph of the rule of law.”

“The exercise by the NTC of its regulatory power is in accordance with the principle of the rule of law. Nobody is sacred. Even a powerful and influential corporation must follow the law,” the solicitor general also said.

Calida has asked the Supreme Court to revoke the now-expired franchise of the network for supposed violations it committed — allegations the company denied.

Palace defends Calida

The Malacañang for its part defended Calida and said his letter to the NTC was “in his due course” as the chief lawyer of the government.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also claimed in an interview with state-run PTV4 that Calida “did not influence” the NTC in its ruling.

Roque said that the regulatory agency is an independent body when it is exercising its quasi-judicial functions.

“No one can say that [Commissioner Gamaliel] Cordoba can be dictated upon,” he also said.

Roque earlier said that the Palace will follow the NTC’s decision and would not intervene with the franchise woes of the network.

President Rodrigo Duterte, whom Roque said is now "neutral" on the issue of ABS-CBN's franchise, repeatedly threatened the network and its owners over political ads that it failed to air.

The network said in a Senate hearing in February that it had given Duterte a partial refund for the unaired ads. The Duterte campaign rejected a second tranche of the refund.

RELATED: At franchise hearing, ABS-CBN scolded for airing election ad against Duterte

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