Senate adopts resolution calling on NTC to 'reconsider' order vs ABS-CBN

Senate adopts resolution calling on NTC to 'reconsider' order vs ABS-CBN
This photo taken February 24, 2020 shows executives of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation attending the Senate hearing into its franchise and supposed violations of the law.
The STAR / Mong Pintolo, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday adopted a resolution calling on the National Telecommunications Commission to reconsider its cease and desist order against ABS-CBN.

Senators adopted Resolution No. 395 expressing the sense of the chamber to urge the telecommunications regulator to reconsider the CDO it issued on May 5.

The resolution noted “precedents” where entities with expired franchises were allowed to continue operation, “pending the grant of franchise renewal by Congress,” citing the cases of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Broadcast, Globe Innove and PT&T.

A copy of the resolution was previously posted by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, one of its authors.

It also cited NTC’s memorandum stating that existing permit certificates and licenses expiring within March 15 to April 14, 2020 or during the Enhanced Community Quarantine shall continue to be valid 60 days after the end of the government-imposed quarantine period.

“This suggests that there is enough basis in policy and in practice to allow ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiaries and/or affiliates to continue their operations pending the renewal of their respective franchises,” it added.

“Now more than ever, in the middle of the biggest public health crisis of our generation, the Filipino people deserve access to up-to-date news provided by a free and unfettered media, and multiple sources of information provide the best pathways for truth to emerge,” the resolution read.

The following senators signed the resolution:

  • Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto
  • Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri
  • Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon
  • Sen. Risa Hontiveros
  • Sen. Sonny Angara
  • Sen. Nancy Binay
  • Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
  • Sen. Leila De Lima
  • Sen. Lito Lapid
  • Sen. Manny Pacquiao
  • Sen. Francis Pangilinan
  • Sen. Joel Villanueva

Hontiveros, in her sponsorship speech, said in Filipino that while ABS-CBN can be accessed through the internet, “many Filipinos still have no access or have good internet connection.”

“In far-flung areas of our country, only radio and television are the sources of information of our countrymen. Cutting off this source of information is ill-timed at best, dangerous at worst,” she added.

ABS-CBN stopped operation of its 42 television stations—including free channel 2—10 digital broadcast channels, 18 FM stations and five AM stations on May 5, hours after it received NTC’s order.

The network ran to the Supreme Court to ask for temporary restraining order against the NTC CDO. This was raffled off to the member-in-charge Monday morning.

Let the House tackle it

The following senators, meanwhile, abstained from voting:

  • Senate President Vicente Sotto
  • Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa Jr.
  • Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go
  • Sen. Panfilo Lacson
  • Sen. Imee Marcos
  • Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
  • Sen. Francis Tolentino
  • Sen. Cynthia Villar

Most of them opted to wait for action from the House of Representatives, where franchise bills emanate.

Sen. Pia Cayetano meanwhile withdrew her signature from the resolution, noting that ABS-CBN filed a petition before the Supreme Court on the same day she affixed her signature.

“I do my best to refrain from expressing my views once it’s already in the court,” she explained.

Cayetano however said that she has not changed her position that NTC should allow ABS-CBN to continue operations pending congressional action on the franchise renewal bills. 

She signed an earlier Senate Resolution No. 344 expressing the view that NTC is auhtorized to grant ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries a provisional authority.

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Legislative Franchises has ordered NTC officials to explain why they should not be cited in contempt when they issued the cease and desist order against ABS-CBN.

The panel however has yet to schedule a hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise bill. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from The STAR/Paolo Romero

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