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MANILA, Philippines – Ranking congressmen threatened to file a graft and corruption case against National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba for allowing embattled network ABS-CBN to continue airing some of its shows through its digital box TV Plus.
A visibly irked Senior Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Crispin Remulla said there is a “ripe case” before the Office of the Ombudsman against Cordoba as the House resumed its joint hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise issue on Monday, June 29.
“Mr Chairman, I believe we already found a ground for this committee to file a case with the Ombudsman against Commissioner Cordoba because he has willfully disobeyed the power of Congress to issue franchises and allowing an entity to operate without a franchise and earn money at the same time,” Remulla said.
“We have a ripe case for the Ombudsman, Mr Chairman,” added the Cavite 7th District representative.
Lawmakers’ started berating Cordoba after House committee on public accounts chair Mike Defensor first raised the issue over NTC allowing the continued airing of ABS-CBN shows through TV Plus, a digital box which allows subscribers to watch free and pay-per-view services to select areas.
“This in itself is a usurpation and infringement on the powers of Congress, Mr Chairman,” said Defensor.
The NTC had issued on May 5 a cease and desist order (CDO) against ABS-CBN after its franchise lapsed on May 4. The network complied and closed down its television and radio operations that same evening
But ABS-CBN likewise continued to air some of its shows on its online platforms, as well as over the ABS-CBN News Channel on cable, satellite TV, and iWant, as they argued these are not covered by the franchise.
The CDO against ABS-CBN does not specifically include Channel 43 and TV Plus, but Cordoba said their operations are dependent on the network’s franchise.
Cease and desist order covers TV Plus, Channel 43?
On Monday, Cordoba told lawmakers ABS-CBN was using the same expired-franchise to air shows through Channel 43 of Amcara Broadcasting Network, with whom the media giant has a block time arrangement.
The NTC commissioner also said the CDO should have covered ABS-CBN shows airing on Channel 43.
“Sa madaling salita, ‘yong pag-ere ng ABS-CBN ng digital TV sa Channel 43 ay kasama po sa CDO dahil sa franchise na ginamit nila for that ay ‘yon pong ABS-CBN,” Cordoba said. (In other words, the airing of ABS-CBN’s digital TV on Channel 43 is included in the CDO because the franchise they used for that was that of ABS-CBN.)
Remulla then asked why the NTC allowed ABS-CBN to keep airing its shows through TV Plus and Channel 43 if Cordoba knew the CDO should have covered these platforms too.
“Bakit ‘di inaawat ‘yan? Tino-tolerate ba ng NTC ‘yan?” asked Remulla. (Why didn’t you stop that? Is the NTC tolerating that?)
Cordoba explained the NTC wanted to “be more prudent” since Solicitor General Jose Calida already has a pending quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN’s franchise before the Supreme Court (SC).
ABS-CBN also ran to the SC for a temporary restraining order when the NTC issued the CDO against the network.
He said the NTC then sought the opinion of the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) Jose Calida, who had earlier filed with the SC a separate quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN’s franchise.
The OSG opinion – which the NTC received only on Monday morning – recommended the issuance of an “alias cease and desist order” against ABS-CBN TV Plus and Channel 43.
“Ang sabi po ng OSG, tama nga, kasama nga po ito, at puwede po kaming mag-issue ng alias cease and desist order… Inaaral na po ng aming legal department at kung sakaling okay na man po ang aming pag-aaral, ii-issue namin ‘yong aming alias cease and desist order,” Cordoba said.
(The OSG said that is correct, these are also included and we can issue the alias cease and desist order… Our legal department is studying this now and if all issues are cleared, we will issue the alias lrmqglva ease and desist order.)
But ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak said the CDO does not cover Channel 43. Still, he said the network is “willing to subject ourselves to the judgement of the NTC.”
“Yong hinihingi lang po namin is to make sure that we are given due process. So we have the right venue to express our position on this matter,” Katigbak said.
Cordoba’s answers during the hearing, however, did not sit well with other legislators.
Staunch ABS-CBN accuser and House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta even went as far as telling Cordoba to resign from the NTC.
“Kung ako ang masusunod, dapat mag resign po si Commissioner Cordoba (If it were up to me, Commissioner Cordoba should resign) because he’s not doing his job,” Marcoleta said.
The Sagip representative previously questioned why the NTC is allowing the ABS-CBN-owned Sky Cable Corporation to keep operating even if its legislative franchise expired on March 30.
This is not the first time lawmakers went head-to-head with the NTC over the ABS-CBN franchise issue.
The NTC first drew the ire of legislators after it backtracked on its promise to lawmakers on March 10 that it would “most likely” issue ABS-CBN a temporary permit to operate beyond May 4 while Congress is still deliberating on the bills renewing the network’s franchise.
When NTC issued the CDO instead, the public pinned the blame on the House for dragging its feet on the bills that would have renewed ABS-CBN’s franchise.
A House resolution has since been calling for a congressional probe into the alleged conspiracy between Calida and the NTC to shut down ABS-CBN.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano himself said NTC issued the CDO because it was “pressured” by Calida, who had long been out to close down ABS-CBN. – Rappler.com