ABS-CBN goes to SC
ABS-CBN said the NTC violated the company’s right to due process by issuing a cease and desist order without notice or hearing, and by ignoring the serious and irreparable damage that the order would inflict on the company and on thousands of its employees.
Michael Varcas, file
ABS-CBN goes to SC
Evelyn Macairan, Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - May 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Citing losses of as much as P35 million daily as well as endangerment of the livelihood of thousands with its abrupt closure, ABS-CBN Corp. has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) from enforcing its cease and desist order against the network giant.

The broadcast giant filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with the SC yesterday to nullify and set aside the May 5 cease and desist order of the NTC.

The petition included an urgent appeal for the issuance of a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction against the NTC.

ABS-CBN said the NTC violated the company’s right to due process by issuing a cease and desist order without notice or hearing, and by ignoring the serious and irreparable damage that the order would inflict on the company and on thousands of its employees.

“The (cease and desist order) also violates the right of the public to information and is necessarily a curtailment of the freedom of speech and of the press. Strong public interest and equity demand that ABS-CBN be allowed to continue its operations,” it said.

The company likewise claimed that NTC’s order violated its right to equal protection of the law and deviated from past practice wherein the commission allowed broadcasting entities to continue operating pending Congress’ action on the renewal or extension of their franchises.

With Congress having the plenary power to grant and renew legislative franchises, ABS-CBN argued that the NTC should have deferred to the chamber and allowed the network to continue operating its television and radio stations instead of issuing a cease and desist order.

ABS-CBN said that the cease and desist order came two days after Solicitor General Calida issued a warning that NTC commissioners risk subjecting themselves to prosecution under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act should it grant provisional authority to the media network.

“The NTC thus issued the cease and desist order with a threat hanging over its head, made no less by the government’s own lawyer, of prosecution for graft/corruption. Under such climate, the NTC’s impartiality is at best seriously suspect,” it said.

ABS-CBN said there is no plain, speedy and adequate remedy available to the company other than a petition for certiorari and/or prohibition.

While its most immediate loss would be loss of advertising revenues, ABS-CBN said the company is at risk of incurring a lot more.

“Because of the cease and desist order, ABS-CBN will not be able to service its debts and this would constrain its creditors to require collateral for its loans,” said the company, adding that it has already received a notice from a bank demanding such collateral.

ABS-CBN said its credit lines and letters of credit had already been adversely affected, seriously hampering activities which require such financing.

“Even if the total potential financial impact of the foregoing may be estimated, the injury is still irreparable because ABS-CBN cannot recover its losses from the NTC,” it said.

“Worse, the injury extends far beyond ABS-CBN, as the cease and desist order also greatly affects the public. The closure of ABS-CBN will result in the loss of livelihood of more than 11,000 employees and their families, at a time when thousands have become jobless due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the firm added.

The network went off the air Tuesday night or hours after the NTC issued its “immediately executory” order.

In issuing the order, the NTC cited the expiration of network’s franchise the day before.

The order covered five AM radio stations, 18 FM stations and 42 television stations of ABS-CBN nationwide.

NTC deputy commissioner Edgardo Cabarios earlier said that the commission’s decision was based solely on Radio Control Law Act No. 3846 which states that “no person, firm, company, association or corporation shall construct, install, establish or operate a radio transmitting station, or a radio receiving station used for commercial purposes, or a radio broadcasting station, without having first obtained a franchise therefor from the Congress of the Philippines.”

However, NTC commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba earlier told a House hearing that the agency would not order a shutdown of ABS-CBN while it awaited the renewal of its 25-year franchise by Congress.

NTC’s Memorandum Order No. 01-03-20 dated March 16 signed by Cordoba stated that “all subsisting permits, permits necessary to operate and maintain telecommunication facilities nationwide, shall automatically be renewed and shall continue to be valid 60 days after the end of the government-imposed quarantine period.”

In line with such order, ABS-CBN in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on March 23 said that “all subsisting licenses and permits issued by the NTC to telecommunication companies necessary to operate and maintain telecommunication facilities nationwide are declared automatically renewed and continue to be valid 60 days after the end of the government-imposed quarantine period.”

ABS-CBN NTC SC
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