Recto: If ABS-CBN had violations, impose penalties but not 'death penalty'

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto on Monday, February 24, likened the possibility of closing down ABS-CBN's broadcast operations to the imposition of capital punishment, if violations are proven true.

During the Senate hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise, Recto asked the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) whether it shuttered broadcast operations of other groups when their own franchise expired.

Telecommunications Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said that the NTC did not stop the groups' operations even though they did not issue a provisional authority.

"The past franchises that expired were allowed to continue [operating]. There was some guidance from Congress at that time," Cordoba said.

Recto asked whether it's a joint resolution adopted by both chambers of Congress, to which Cordoba replied no.

"If we do not allow it to operate, then broadcast will have to [stop]. We'll have to use a cease and desist order, your honor," Cordoba said.

Asked by Recto if ABS-CBN has any standing penalties with the NTC, Cordoba said "none."

"In effect, parang capital punishment. Papatayin natin. Death penalty. Wala naman palang penalty [sa NTC]. Bakit natin isasara kung wala naman palang penalty sa inyo? Commensurate ba?" Recto said, suggesting that the commission consider imposing penalties instead, if there are proven violations.

(In effect, it's like capital punishment. We'll kill the business. Dealth penalty. Apparently there are no penalties with the NTC. Why would we close it down if there are no penalties with you? Is it a commensurate action?)

Among the alleged violation of ABS-CBN's franchise, as indicated in Solicitor General Jose Calida's petition filed with the Supreme Court, is its pay-per-view services under the "Kapamilya Box Office" or KBO. (READ: GMA may get 55% market share if ABS-CBN shuts down)

Cordoba reiterated Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra's position that KBO is not necessarily a violation of ABS-CBN's franchise, as "commercial purposes" are allowed. (READ: ABS-CBN case: Testing the limits of corporate structuring practices)

Cordoba, however, pointed out that the KBO service became available before the guidelines were issued. The violation for the pay-per-view services, under the Public Services Act, would merit a small fine of P200 and not revocation, according to Cordoba.

"Ang Central Bank, 'pag ang bangko nagkamali, kadalasan penalty ang binabayaran. Ang Philippine Competition Commission, kadalasan penalty. I don't think that this warrants a death penalty or a capital punishment na papatayin natin 'yung kumpanya," Recto said.

(When banks err, the Central Bank usually issues them a fine. The Philippine Competition Commission also issues fines. I don't think this warrants a death penalty or capital punishment wherein we kill the company's operations.)

ABS-CBN's franchise is set to expire on May 4 this year, as the 1995 Republic Act No. 7966 that allowed its 25-year broadcast operations was apparently published on April 19, 1995, therefore becoming effective 15 days after.

In a very urgent omnibus motion, Calida asked the Supreme Court to void ABS-CBN's franchiseon the basis of alleged violations in foreign ownership restrictions, its pay-per-view services, and acquisition of ABS-CBN's Convergence franchise through a merger. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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