NTC joins OSG’s opposition vs De Lima’s call for passage of “ABS-CBN favoritism” bill

January 20, 2022 People's Tonight 100 views

THE National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) stated that it is adopting the opposition of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to the call of Senator Leila de Lima to pass two pending bills favoring the revival of the ABS-CBN franchise, both agencies saying the bills are absolutely unconstitutional.

De Lima, who is seeking a fresh Senate term in the upcoming May 2022 elections, called on the House of Representatives to pass certain bills that seek to prevent the expiration of franchises with pending renewal applications.

According to the OSG, the proposed bills disregard the legislative nature and origin of a franchise in contravention of the Constitution.

“The proposed bills seek to provide a ‘hold over franchise” to be enjoyed by an entity which has applied for a renewal while congress is still deliberating on the merits of such renewal,” the chief state lawyer stressed.

Solicitor General Jose Calida lamented that by institutionalizing the system of “hold over franchise” starting with ABS-CBN in the broadcast industry, the legislative measures already violate the “settled rule that the privilege to operate a broadcasting station requires a legislative franchise in the form of a law.”

The said policy is also open to abuse because it paves the way for “shrewd broadcasting entities the incentive to delay an impending denial of an application for franchise renewal.”

“Furthermore, to allow an expired franchise holder to continue its operations thereby extending its use over the free signals granted by the State is akin to promoting ‘exclusivity’ which the Constitution abhors,” Calida emphasized.

The OSG noted that Article XII, Section 10 of the Constitution provides that no such franchise, certificate are exclusive.

According to the OSG, since the bills were filed on the same date and contained identical wordings, it can be “reasonably” hypothesized that the legislative move was aimed at granting the reinstatement of the legislative franchises of ABS-CBN and the Amcara Broadcasting Network (Amcara), whose franchises have both expired and had been the subject of a cease-and-desist order issued by the NTC.