Just recently, a member of the House of Representatives reiterated that the National Telecommunications Commission cannot, on its own, ‘resurrect’ an expired legislative franchise by granting ABS CBN a ‘provisional authority to operate’. ABS CBN’s franchise is said to expire on March 30, 2020. This is after some leaders in Congress suggested that the network can secure a provisional authority from the National Telecommunications Commission after the expiration of its legislative franchise.
ABS CBN Corporation is a Filipino media and entertainment group and is considered as the country’s largest entertainment and media conglomerate in terms of revenue, net income, assets, and the number of employees to mention a few.
“Only holders of a valid, existing and/or renewed franchise can apply with the NTC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN),” states Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, in an article by the Philippine News Agency. Read more: NTC can’t resurrect expired franchise of ABS CBN.
However, according to Lagman, if there is no existing franchise then there should be no operation. Lagman cites Section 16 of the Public Telecommunications Policy Act, stating that ‘no person shall commence or conduct the business of being a public telecommunications entity without first obtaining a franchise’.
“The opinion that a franchisee can continue its operations as long as it has a pending application for renewal and the current Congress has not adjourned sine die is based on an alleged practice which can be challenged in court because it is not validated by jurisprudence. An existing, valid and/or renewed franchise is a condition precedent for the grantee to secure from the NTC the necessary permits and licenses,” adds Lagman.
Moreover, Lagman urged the chamber to expedite the renewal of the network’s franchise. It can be recalled that leaders claimed that ABS CBN can continue to operate until 2022 if there is a pending bill extending or renewing its franchise.
In an article by CNN Philippines, PBA Partylist Representative Jericho Nograles stated that Congress can approve the renewal of the network’s franchise if President Rodrigo Duterte moves to expedite the process. Read more: Congress can pass ABS CBN franchise if Duterte certifies it as urgent.
Meanwhile, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano commented that the discussion regarding the ABS CBN franchise renewal should be done ‘soberly and very reasonably’.
“So bakit sinasabi kong hindi urgent? Don’t get me wrong. Napakaimportante po ng franchise ng ABS-CBN, hindi lang sa 11,000 empleyado. Importante ‘to sa buong bansa, sa demokrasya natin. Pero hindi ganun ka-urgent. Bakit? Kasi hanggang March 2022 pwede mag-operate e,” states Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
“Kung tayo mag-hearing ngayon, alam mo, sasabihin ko sa inyo kung ano mangyayari: it will suck all the energy of the 18th Congress. Halos lahat ng miyembro, mag-a-attend. Mapapabayaan ang ibang mga importante,” Cayetano adds.
It can be recalled that Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a ‘quo warranto’ petition, seeking the nullification of the franchise of ABS CBN. Calida accused the network of violating the Constitution when the network allowed foreign investors to take part in its ownership by issuing Philippine Deposit Receipts via ABS CBN Holdings Corp.