Cease order vs ABS-CBN issued out of respect for Congress, NTC says in letter

Ratziel San Juan - Philstar.com
Cease order vs ABS-CBN issued out of respect for Congress, NTC says in letter
An employee of ABS-CBN works in the newsroom at the station headquarters in Manila on May 6, 2020. The shutting down of the Philippines' top broadcaster crosses a dangerous line in eroding the nation's democracy and sends a warning to those who risk angering President Rodrigo Duterte, watchdogs said. Ted ALJIBE / AFP
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Told by a House panel to explain why it should not be cited in contempt over its cease and desist order (CDO) against ABS-CBN, the National Telecommunications Commission said that it only acted out of “full respect” for Congress.

In a letter addressed to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig) and Rep. Franz Alvarez (Palawan), chairperson of the Committee on Legislative Franchises, the commission said that it should have informed Congress that it was legally unable to issue a Provisional Authority (PA) to ABS-CBN and instead opted to file the stop order against the network after its 25-year legislative franchise expired last Monday.

RELATED: No word on hearings, but House panel orders NTC to explain order vs ABS-CBN

"Please rest assured that we intended no disrespect whatsoever towards Congress. On the contrary, it was precisely NTC's full respect and recognition for Congress' sole prerogatives that led it to desist from issuing a PA and, thereafter, to conclude that is was legally bound to issue a CDO,” read the letter dated Tuesday but made public Thursday.

The provisional authority would allow ABS-CBN to operate pending legislation on the renewal of its franchise.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra previously said that Congress—the Senate and the House—may direct the NTC to issue a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN, but the government's top lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the commission could face graft charges for doing so.

'Cease and desist order best possible solution'

"We understand why the CDO took Congress by surprise, given the earlier information provided by NTC that it would issue a [PA] for ABS-CBN to operate while the application for the renewal of its franchise was being heard in Congress. The representation was made upon the good faith belief that the issuance of the PA by the NTC provided the best possible solution at that time,” the NTC explained in reply to the House show-cause order.

“In the end, NTC's collective assessment was that the Constitution, the laws, and jurisprudence provided insurmountable obstacles to the issuance of a PA, notwithstanding equitable considerations.”

The commission said this is why it yielded the matter of ABS-CBN’s franchise to Congress.

“If the NTC were to issue a PA, it would have amounted to an encroachment into the exclusive domain of Congress. We understand that the licensing power of the NTC may only arise from the necessary delegation of power from Congress through a law. NTC would thus abide by any law passed by Congress which may extend all telecommunication and broadcasting legislative franchises that expired during the public health emergency, if there be any.”

Alvarez has since acknowledged receipt of NTC's letter.

"The Committee (on Legislative Franchises) shall duly consider the officials' explanation and the apology contained therein in resolving whether or not they should be held in contempt...We shall advise the NTC in due course of the Committee's actions with regard to the foregoing matters."











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