House panel issues show cause order vs NTC over ABS-CBN shutdown

The House committee on legislative franchises issued a show cause order against the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), directing it to explain why it should not be held in contempt for ordering the closure of media network ABS-CBN.  

House panel chair Franz Alvarez made good on his threat to issue a show cause order to the NTC on Monday, May 11, although the document was dated May 5. Lawmakers are demanding an explanation from the following NTC officials:

  • Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba
  • Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios
  • Deputy Commissioner Delilah Deles
  • Legal branch head Ella Lopez 

Alvarez ordered the 4 NTC officials to explain within the next 72 hours why they should not be cited in contempt for backtracking on Cordoba’s earlier commitment to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate while Congress was still tackling the bills that would have renewed the network’s franchise.

The franchise has since expired on May 4. 

“The act of the NTC constitutes undue interference on and disobedience to the exercise of the power of the House of Representatives, and, therefore, an affront to its dignity and an excusable disrespect of its authority,” Alvarez said.  

The House may move to arrest persons found guilty of contempt.

"Your failure to comply with this order within the period prescribed will result in a finding against you for contempt of the House of Representatives and subject you to other actions that are within the powers of the House of Representatives to enforce," warned Alvarez.

The House – from which all franchise bills must emanate – had dragged its foot in deliberating on the bills that would have renewed ABS-CBN’s franchise. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the lower chamber had to prioritize other administration pet bills first.  

Instead, Cayetano and Alvarez wrote a letter "enjoining" the NTC to grant ABS-CBN the temporary permit so it could continue operating pending the renewal of its franchise. 

But a day after the franchise’s expiration on May 5, the NTC issued a cease and desist order against the media giant, forcing it to go off-air. This happened after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned NTC against allowing ABS-CBN to keep operating, 

Critics, including several disgruntled congressmen and Calida himself, have since blamed Cayetano and the House for the closure of ABS-CBN. (READ: 'Pagkukulang niya ito sa bayan': Lawmakers blame Cayetano for ABS-CBN shutdown)

But the Speaker said the NTC and the “unconstitutional meddling” of Calida are at fault, washing his hands of the ABS-CBN shutdown. (READ: Cayetano: 'There will be a reckoning' for Calida, NTC)

House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr already called for the NTC’s abolition, while House committee on public accounts chair Mike Defensor wants Calida and the NTC probed for alleged “conspiracy” to shut down ABS-CBN. 

The first bill renewing the network's franchise was filed during the Benigno Aquino III administration in the 16th Congress in September 2014, but it remained pending before the House committee of legislative franchises. 

Versions of the measure were then refiled in both the 17th Congress and the current 18th Congress under the Duterte presidency, but the franchise was still not renewed.  Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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