NTC, through Calida, asks Supreme Court to junk ABS-CBN plea
An empty booth of DZMM, the radio arm of ABS-CBN, is seen 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.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
NTC, through Calida, asks Supreme Court to junk ABS-CBN plea
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - May 26, 2020 - 3:37pm

MANILA, Philippines — The National Telecommunications Commission, through the Office of the Solicitor General, asked the Supreme Court to dismiss ABS-CBN’s plea for a halt order against regulator's Cease and Desist Order on the network.

The NTC on Monday filed a 91-page comment asking the SC to deny ABS-CBN’s prayer for a status quo ante or temporary restraining order, and dismiss the network's Petition for Certiorari for lack of merit.

The commission also opposed the SC's move to implead —or include — the Senate and House of Representatives as respondents as it said that Congress has no participation in the case.

ABS-CBN ran to the SC for relief from the CDO issued by NTC on May 5. In compliance with the order, ABS-CBN shut down its 42 channels—including free channel 2—and several radio stations.

'Not of transcendental importance'

The telecommunications regulatory body, through Solicitor General Jose Calida, said the SC should junk the petition as it violated the hierarchy of courts when it directly sought the high court for relief.

The solicitor general said that the issues raised in the petition are not of transcendental importance. “These instances are glaringly absent in the present case. Public funds are not involved,” he said.

He also said the arguments raised by the network would require the reception and evaluation of evidence.

Calida had previously sought to revoke ABS-CBN’s now-expired franchise through a quo warranto petition, where he accused the network of violating its own franchise law.

RELATED: Calida cites 'transcendental importance' in case vs ABS-CBN: What is it?

In his own quo warranto plea, Calida invoked transcendental importance and pointed out that ABS-CBN Corp. is the “largest media conglomerate in the country” that can shape public opinion on variety of issues.

Cordoba’s statement to Congress, DOJ legal guidance not binding

The solicitor general also stressed that NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba’s statement that the regulatory body would issue a provisional authority (PA) to the network is not binding on the regulatory body.

NTC can only act collegially, Calida stressed.

He also said that the commissioner’s statements in congressional hearings “cannot supersede the requirements of the law.”

Calida also argued that the Department of Justice’s “legal guidance” to the NTC saying that it can issue PA to the network based on equity is “merely persuasive and not necessarily controlling.”

'No irreparable damage'

The solicitor general also countered ABS-CBN’s statement that it suffers irreparable damage—a requisite for TRO issuance—due to the CDO.

In reiterating its plea for a halt order, the network said it loses P30 million to P35 million for each day it is off air. “If this severe financial hemorrhage is not stopped, ABS-CBN may be constrained to eventually let go of workers, reduce salaries and benefits, and substantially cut down on costs and expenses,” it said.

But Calida noted that since the company stated multimillion-peso losses daily, it is not irreparable as it is subject to a mathematical computation. Citing jurisprudence, he noted that irreparable injury “must involve such amount which is incapable of pecuniary estimation for the applicant.”

The government’s chief legal counsel also said that ABS-CBN cannot ask the SC for relief on damage caused to the jobs of its 11,000 employees as they are third party to the case.

RELATED: Layoffs loom at ABS-CBN by August if broadcast not resumed

“Generally speaking, the petitioner must assert its own legal rights and interests, and cannot rest its claim on the legal rights and interests, and cannot rest its claim on the legal rights and interests of others,” he added.

Beyond judicial review and opposition to impleading Congress

“The grant of a legislative franchise to operate radio and television broadcasting stations is a political question which is beyond the scope of this Honorable Court’s power of judicial review,” Calida said.

 “It may not be interfered with by the courts unless the issuing authority went beyond its statutory authority, exercised unconstitutional powers, or acted arbitrarily and without regard to his duty or with grave abuse of discretion,” the solicitor general also said.

The government’s chief lawyer also opposed the SC’s move to implead the Senate and the House of Representatives in the petition.

ABS-CBN named only the NTC as respondent in its plea, but the SC en banc directed the Senate and House to also file their respective comments.

Calida argued that the participation of the Congress is “not necessary” as they do not have a substantial interest or right in this case.

NTC’s issuance of the order also did not involve the Congress, he noted.

The House’s Committee on Legislative Franchise conducted a hearing into the several bills filed connected to ABS-CBN—renewal of its franchise and supposed violations—also on Tuesday.

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