Marcoleta: Why is Sky Cable allowed to operate with a lapsed franchise?

Mara Cepeda
The NTC cites Executive Order 205 signed by ex-president Cory Aquino in 1987, which 'removed' the franchise requirement for cable TV operators

MANILA, Philippines – ABS-CBN accuser and House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta asked on Monday, June 8, why the network’s shows were still airing via Sky Cable when the latter’s legislative franchise had also expired. 

At the latter part of the House’s 6-hour joint hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise issue, Marcoleta zeroed in on Sky Cable Corporation’s franchise, which lapsed on March 30. Sky Cable is owned by ABS-CBN. 

He asked the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) – which issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN after its franchise expired on May 4 – why it is allowing Sky Cable to stay on air. 

“I have observed that ABS-CBN has been the subject of a cease and desist order very recently coming from the National Telecommunications [Commission]. But, apparently, Mr Chair, they are still able to air their programs and their contents using the SkyCable Corporation,” Marcoleta said. 

“We are all aware of the fact that the franchise of SkyCable Corporation, which is now owned by ABS-CBN, the franchise has expired as of March 30, 2020…. Is the NTC aware of this? And if they are aware, why is it that they consented [to] airing the programs, Mr Chair?” he asked.

NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba cited Executive Order 205signed by former president Corazon Aquino in 1987, which regulates the operation of the Cable Antenna Television (CATV) System, which is now Sky Cable. Its franchise was signed into law on March 30, 1995. (READ: FAST FACTS: Other businesses of ABS-CBN) 

Section 1 of EO 205 states that CATV system’s operation “shall be open to all citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives, or associations wholly-owned and managed by such citizens under a Certificate of Authority granted by the National Telecommunications Commission, hereinafter referred to as the Commission.” 

Cordoba said this EO essentially “removed” the requirement for cable television operators to apply for a franchise before airing programs. 

“Lumalabas po dito sa executive order na to ay parang tinanggal po ng executive order ang requirement ng prangkisa para po sa mga cable TV operators,” Cordoba said. (This executive order seems to have removed the franchise requirement for cable TV operators.)

He said this is not unique to Sky Cable, as other cable TV operators supposedly no longer seek a legislative franchise to maintain their operations in the country.

“And, actually po, yong mga ibang cable TV operators ay pag nag-a-apply po sa amin ay wala naman po silang prangkisa na isina-submit. At hindi na po sila nag-a-apply ng prangkisa…sa legislative branch of government. Ang ginagawa po nila ay nag-i-incorporate po sila sa SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) at saka po nagsa-submit ng aplikasyon sa National Telecommunications Commission,” Cordoba said. 

(And, actually, when other cable TV operators apply with us, they no longer submit a franchise. They also don’t apply for a franchise with…the legislative branch of government. What they do is apply for incorporation with the SEC, then submit an application to the National Telecommunications Commission.)

ABS-CBN has announced some of its shows will be returning via the Kapamilya Channel starting June 13. The shows will air via cable and satellite television, including Sky Cable. 

House committee on good government and public accountability chair Jose Sy-Alvarado then said Congress must seek to amend the EO to ensure the “power of franchises would be returned” to lawmakers.  

Before Marcoleta could press Cordoba for more questions, however, Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate interjected and asked why the 1-SAGIP congressman was being allowed to raise issues on Sky Cable when it wasnt part of the hearing’s agenda for the day. 

Earlier in the hearing, Marcoleta asked ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez to recite the Panatang Makabayan” to prove he is a Filipnio. Marcoleta even asked Zarate if he wanted to assist Lopez, which irritated the Bayan Muna congressman.

As tensions started to rise between the two lawmakers, Sy-Alvarado immediately suspended the hearing for a few seconds. 

He resumed the proceedings only to announce that the next hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise would be held on Thursday, June 10, when other issues involving the embattled media giant will be discussed. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.