NCAA

NTC orders ABS-CBN to stop operations

Ralf Rivas
(2nd UPDATE) The National Telecommunications Commission says ABS-CBN cannot continue operating since its franchise is already expired

PRESS FREEDOM. ABS-CBN supporters hold a demonstration to call for the renewal of its franchise on March 1, 2020. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order against media giant ABS-CBN on Tuesday, May 5, a day after the expiration of its congressional franchise.

In its order, the NTC directed the network to halt television and radio broadcasting operations.

ABS-CBN was also given 10 days from the receipt of the order to respond and explain why the frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the NTC order is “immediately executory, but still appealable to the courts.”

Malacañang said it noted NTC’s decision, saying it stands because ABS-CBN is now without a valid franchise.

“In the absence of a legislative franchise, as we have earlier said, ABS-CBN’s continued operation is entirely with the NTC’s decision,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday, May 5, in a statement.

ABS-CBN is “free to exhaust all legal remedies available to it,” said Roque.

“We thank the network for its services to the Filipino nation and people, especially in this time of COVID-19,” continued the Duterte spokesman.

Republic Act No. 7966 was enacted in March 1995 and granted the Lopez-led network a franchise to operate for 25 years, but Congress was unable to act on its renewal. The franchise expired on Monday, May 4.

Solicitor General Jose Calida on Sunday, May 3, warned the NTC against granting ABS-CBN provisional authority to operate while the renewal of its franchise is pending in Congress.

Calida had filed a quo warranto petition last February, seeking to stop ABS-CBN’s operations.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra countered Calida on Monday, saying that the network can keep operating despite the franchise expiration.

House committee on legislative franchises chairman Franz Alvarez also slammed Calida on Tuesday, saying that the solicitor general cannot challenge the lower chamber’s authority.

There were at least 9 bills filed with Congress seeking ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier told ABS-CBN executives that it would be better to “just sell” the network, saying that Congress renewing the franchise is unlikely.

Duterte has accused the network of unfair reporting, tax evasion, and swindling for allegedly not broadcasting his political ads in 2016. (READ: TIMELINE: Duterte against ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal)

In a Senate hearing last February, ABS-CBN chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak apologized to Duterte.

Katigbak also clarified the swindling allegations, saying that the network was able to air all of Duterte’s national ads that amounted to P117 million. Katigbak said they were not able to air all of his local ads, as local ads have shorter airtime allocation.

The network had refunded P4 million worth of ads, but the remaining P2.6 million was delayed. (READ: Duterte accepts ABS-CBN’s apology)

The NTC order against the media giant comes as the Philippines combats the health, economic, and social effects of the coronavirus crisis. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.