Congress can authorize NTC to grant ABS-CBN provisional license to operate — DOJ

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 24) — Congress can authorize the National Telecommunications Commission to grant ABS-CBN a temporary license to continue operating pending legislative action on the media giant's license renewal, Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra said Monday.

During the Senate Committee on Public Services hearing, Gueverra said the NTC can give provisional authority if the Senate and House of Representatives file a joint resolution prior to the expiration of ABS-CBN's 25-year franchise on May 4.

"The Congress, by a concurrent resolution, may authorize the National Telecommunications Commission to issue a provisional authority subject to such terms and conditions as the NTC may deem fit to ABS-CBN and other entities similarly situated, authorizing them to continue operating subject to Congress' eventual disposition of their renewal of the application," he said during the hearing of Senate Committee on Public Services.

Majority of senators have been pushing for the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise, but bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s legal mandate remain pending before the House committee level.

With this situation, Senator Migz Zubiri asked NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba if the Senate — minus the House — can submit a resolution to NTC.

The commissioner replied, "If the Senate gives the resolution, we can issue provisional authority to let them continue with their broadcast."

Guevarra also said that if the Congress does not pass a resolution to be submitted to NTC, ABS-CBN should be allowed to continue operation. He added some companies have been allowed to operate with expired licenses even in the absence of a resolution from the legislators.

"Kung ako ang tatanungin mo, the answer is continue the practice. Kung walang resolution, ganoon pa rin. Kasi kung hindi mo itutuloy, that will be discriminatory. May gap ang batas eh kaya we draw from equity considerations para fair. Walang agrabyado. Hindi naman kasalanan ng company na hindi pa naaprubahan ng Kongreso ang kanyang application," he said in an ambush interview.

[Translation: If you ask me, my answer is to let them continue practicing even without a resolution. If you stop them from operating, that will be discriminatory. There is a gap in the law so we draw from the equity considerations to be fair to all.

NTC has sought the legal opinion of the DOJ regarding the controversial franchise renewal case. But Guevarra said he will not release a legal opinion because it involves a private company.

Cordoba said the NTC has not found any violations committed by the media network. He added if a temporary license to operate will be given to ABS-CBN, the NTC can withdraw it anytime.

"If there are violations of those conditions, we should be able to withdraw the provisional authority," he said.

This was questioned by Senator Franklin Drilon, saying the possibility threatens freedom of the press if the NTC can quickly scrap the temporary franchise.