'Ripe' Ombudsman case seen vs NTC commissioner for allowing ABS-CBN digital programs to air after franchise expiry

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 29) — A lawmaker called on the House joint committee on Monday to file a case with the Office of the Ombudsman against the commissioner of National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for allowing ABS-CBN to operate its digital programs eight weeks after its franchise expiration.

During the deliberation of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises with the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, Deputy Speaker Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla said there is a "ripe case" with the Ombudsman which may be filed against the NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba for acting beyond his authority and allowing the broadcast network to operate.

"I believe we have already found a ground for this committee to file a case with the Ombudsman against Commissioner Cordoba becuse he has willfully disobeyed the power of Congress to issue franchises and allowing an entity to operate a franchise and earn money at the same time," Remulla told the joint panel.

"This is considered ultra vires on the part of NTC," he said.

Cordoba said AMCARA Broadcasting Network or Channel 43, where ABS-CBN airs digital TV, is covered in the cease and desist order issued to the network on May 5. This was the day that the media giant stopped its broadcasting operations and went off the air.

“Kasama po sa cease and desist order yun pong pag-ere ng ABS-CBN under Channel 43'" said Cordoba. "Doon po sa listahan ng aming cease and desist order, sa ikalawang pahina, nakalagay po TV stations, 87-006 Channel 2."

[Translation: It is included in the cease and desist order, the airing of ABS-CBN under Channel 43. In the list we have in the cease and desist order, in the second page, it is written there TV stations 87-006 Channel 2.]

“Noong binigyan po ng digital TV si ABS-CBN channel 2, ang kanila pong simulcast ay Channel 43," he also said.

[Translation: When ABS-CBN Channel 2 was given the digital TV, they simulcast through Channel 43.]

He added the NTC will issue an alias cease and desist order to stop the operations of Channel 43 tonight.

ABS-CBN CEO Carlo Katigbak, maintained, however, that the original cease and desist order does not cover Channel 43.

“AMCARA Broadcasting is not owned by ABS-CBN," Katigbak pointed out. "The reason that you continue to see our channels with TV Plus is we have a block-time arrangement with AMCARA."

Katigbak said that ABS-CBN is willing to obey whatever NTC order, but he appeals for due process in the network.

"We are willing to submit ourselves to the judgment to NTC. Hinihingi lang namin (We are just asking) is to make sure na we are given due process. Whatever decision NTC comes up with, we will respect the regulatory agency," he said. 

CNN Philippines correspondent Xianne Arcangel and Multi-Platform News Writers Vince Ferreras and Glee Jalea contributed to this report