According to the National Telecommunications Commission themselves, ABS-CBN’s franchise has not officially expired, which raises the question of why it was even shut down in the first place.
The situation with ABS-CBN is perceived as something unfair since there have been various instances where other networks’ franchises have expired but were allowed to continue operations.
The NTC also went on record promising to allow the media giant to continue operations until the year 2022 but obviously, this promise was broken.
It seems the NTC violated its own memo posted on their official website on March 19, 2020.
Any entity possessing NTC requirements such as permits, and certificates, and licenses that are expiring within March 15, 2020 to April 14, 2020 or during the Enhanced Community Quarantine Period shall “continue to be valid sixty (60) days after the end of the government-imposed quarantine period.”
“All existing permits, certificates, and licenses , including radio operator certificates, to operate radio communications equipment, networks, and facilities, government or private, in various radio services such as but not limited to fixed and land mobile, amateur, aeronautical, maritime, satellite, special services, issued by the National Telecommunications Commission, expiring within March 15, 2020 to April 14, 2020 or during the Enhanced Community Quarantine Period shall continue to be valid sixty (60) days after the end of the government-imposed quarantine period,” the memo read.
Based on the entry, ABS-CBN should still be broadcasting on national television since an extension of 60 days was declared.
“Holders of these permits, certificates and licenses shall be given sixty (60) days from the end of the government-imposed quarantine period to file for the renewal of their permits, certificates and licenses, without penalties or surcharges. Thereafter, appropriate penalties/surcharges shall be imposed for late filing of its renewal.”
“Receiving of applications for initial (new) issuance of above-mentioned permits, certificates and licenses is temporarily suspended until further notice,” the memo concluded.
However, the NTC shouldn’t take all the blame, as new evidence proves Solicitor General Jose Calida was the main reason for the shutdown.
A letter obtained by ABS-CBN suggests Calida influenced the NTC to shut down the network by issuing a cease and desist order.
The letter dated April 30, 2020 says Calida ordered the NTC to have ABS-CBN explain why the broadcasting frequency assigned to it should not be recalled or otherwise forfeited.
“With an expired franchise and a failure to renew the franchise, the NTC should, instead of entertaining the thought of issuing a PA, with or without hearing, issue a show cause or recall order requiring ABS-CBN Corporation to explain why the broadcasting frequency assigned to it should not be recalled or otherwise forfeited.”
Moreover, Calida said that, “At the same time, the NTC should issue a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN Corporation from continuing its broadcasting operations” warning the commissioners of possible consequences by granting PAs to the network without an existing legislative franchise.
The commission has the power to issue a cease and desist order upon the expiration of any franchise with the help of the Public Service Act and the NTC’s internal rules.
Signed by Calida and six other solicitor generals, the 14-page letter was addressed to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba and Deputy Commissioners Delilah Deles and Edgardo Cabarios.
Calida also brought up the citizenship issue against the network’s chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez even though this was already clarified at the senate hearing as insignificant as ABS-CBN President and chief executive Carlo Katigbak said Lopez is a Filipino citizen with a Philippine passport.
Calida announced that Congress should be blamed instead of the NTC.
“The bill renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise has been pending in Congress since 2016. The question we should be asking is, why hasn’t Congress acted on it? Who is at fault here?” he said on Wednesday, May 6.
“The exercise by the NTC of its regulatory power is in accordance with the principle of the rule of law. Nobody is sacred. Even a powerful and influential corporation must follow the law.
“Without a valid and subsisting franchise from Congress, the NTC cannot allow any broadcasting entity from operating in the country,” he added.
It should be noted that on March 11, 2020, Cabarios said, “Up to now, yun ang advice (to grant PA) unless we are restrained by the court,” when asked if PAs will be granted to the network allowing operations until June 2022.
Cabarios was also considered under oath when he said the statement.