MANILA, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), in a statement on Sunday, May 3, condemned Solicitor General Jose Calida’s warning to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) regarding ABS-CBN’s franchise.
In a statement earlier that day, Calida told the NTC that they had no powers to grant provisional authority to the broadcast giant, which will allow it to operate while the renewal of its franchise is pending in Congress.
ABS-CBN’s franchise officially expires on Monday, May 4. NTC Commissioner Nathaniel Cordoba said in February that the agency would “most likely” allow ABS-CBN to operate beyond this date, following the principle of equity “based on the advice of the Secretary of Justice.”
But Calida said: “Although this legislative power may be delegated to administrative agencies through a law, at present, there is no such law giving the NTC or any other agency the power to grant franchises to broadcasting entities.” (EXPLAINER: Can ABS-CBN operate past its franchise expiration date?)
NUJP countered by highlighting the network’s crucial role during the coronavirus outbreak.
“It would do no good to the Filipino people if the country’s biggest media corporation, one that is relied upon by a great number of the people during this pandemic for news, entertainment, and relief delivery, if it ceases operations tomorrow,” NUJP’s statement read.
NUJP pointed out that both the House of Representatives and the Department of Justice were already in favor of letting the NTC give ABS-CBN leeway.
“The House of Representatives earlier told the NTC to give ABS-CBN a provisional authority that it already says will finally be given due course when its sessions resume. The Department of Justice has already opined that such provisional authority would be a just measure under the circumstances.”
Calida filed a quo warranto case against the franchises of ABS-CBN Corporation and ABS-CBN Convergence before the Supreme Court on February 10. He argued they were “unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises.” ABS-CBN Convergence’s franchise had already lapsed on March 17.
Press freedom advocates and media groups have said that Calida’s moves against ABS-CBN were part of the administration’s continuing efforts to silence critics and journalists.
NUJP said: “We ask, who really speaks for this government? Is the government so blinded by its Chief Executive’s hatred of an entity that it dares to flaunt our nation’s collective sense of fair play, due process, and common good when the entire country grapples with a problem infinitely more pressing and dangerous? Shame!” – Rappler.com