13 senators urge NTC to reconsider ABS-CBN shutdown order

Thirteen senators want the National Telecommunications Commission to reconsider its cease and desist order against ABS-CBN.

The senators, led by Senator Risa Hontiveros, filed Senate Resolution No. 395 on Thursday, May 7, asking the Senate to express its sense on the shutdown order. It cited precedence and the quasi-judicial body's "liberality" in issuing franchise extension.

"As it is herebly resolves, to express the sense of the Senate to urge the [NTC], to reconsider its cease and desist order against ABS-CBN Corporation, and to allow the continuous operations of ABS-CBN Corporation, its subsidiaries, and affiliates ABS-CBN Convergence Inc, Sky Cable Corporation, and Amcara Broadcasting Network Inc, pending the disposition of its franchise renewal," the resolution said.

In the past, the NTC issued provisional authority to broadcast and telco firms whose franchises have lapsed.

SRN 395 cited the provisional authority given to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Broadcast, Globe lnnove, and PT&T. (READ: What's taking Congress so long to tackle ABS-CBN's franchise?)

SRN 395 also said that the NTC in Memorandum Order 03-03-2020 extended permits, certificates, and licenses which expired from March 15 to April 14, or during the first month of the lockdown.

"This suggests that there is enough basis in policy and in practice to allow ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiaries and/or affiliates to continue their operations, pending the renewal of their respective franchises," the senators said.

Aside from Hontiveros, the following senators signed the resolution:

  • Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon
  • Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri
  • Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto
  • Senator Francis Pangilinan
  • Senator Sonny Angara
  • Senator Joel Villanueva
  • Senator Nancy Binay
  • Senator Lito Lapid
  • Senator Sherwin Gatchalian
  • Senator Manny Pacquiao
  • Senator Leila de Lima
  • Senator Pia Cayetano

In signing the resolution, De Lima urged her colleagues to fast-track the approval of the ABS-CBN franchise bill as a "commitment to defend and promote press freedom."

The NTC issued a cease and desist against ABS-CBN's flagship station Channel 2, Sports and Action on Channel 23, and radio stations DZMM and MOR. This is contrary to its earlier commitment to Congress that it will issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN.

On Thursday, ABS-CBN filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to void the shutdown order.

Since the media giant's franchise expired on May 4, there is nothing to renew. Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez has filed House Bill 6694, seeking a fresh 25-year franchise for ABS-CBN. 

ABS-CBN Corporation's expired 25-year franchise was approved through Republic Act No. 7966 on March 30, 1995, and became effective 15 days after its publication on April 19 that year.

Convergence, Sky Cable, and Amcara's franchises all expired this year as well. Convergence’s franchise was enacted February 23, 1995 while Sky Cable's franchise, through Central CATV Inc, was signed into law on March 30, 1995.

Amcara's franchise, meanwhile, was enacted on July 16, 1995, when it lapsed into law. Amcara operated as Studio 23, which aired ABS-CBN Sports and Action. It's franchise has yet to expire, but Sports and Action was already ordered closed. – 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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