Philippine senators urge gov’t to reconsider order vs ABS-CBN

SILENT PROTEST. Employees and members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines light candles in front of the headquarters of ABS-CBN Corp in Quezon City on Tuesday, May 5. The National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order against the broadcast network even if it said previously that it would issue provisional authority to allow ABS-CBN to operate until June 2022 while Congress deliberates on its franchise renewal. | photo by Miguel De Guzman

SEVERAL Philippine senators on Thursday, May 7, filed a resolution urging the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to reconsider its cease and desist order against broadcasting giant ABS-CBN, after the network went off-air on Tuesday night.

The group of lawmakers also urged the NTC to allow ABS-CBN, as well as its subsidiaries and affiliates, to continue operations pending the disposition of its franchise renewal.

“Now more than ever, in the middle of the biggest public health crisis of our generation, the Filipino people deserve access to up-to-date news provided by a free and unfettered media, and multiple sources of information provide the best pathways for truth to emerge,” the senators said.

They added the impact on 13,000 of the network’s employees, which is “creating joblessness that could not be more ill-timed given the looming economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The senators also pointed out that there are precedents for entities whose franchises have expired but were allowed to continue their operations pending the grant of franchise renewal by Congress such as the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Broadcast, Globe lnnove’s and PT&T.

NTC’s Memorandum Order 03-03-2020 was cited by the senators as well, saying it is another demonstration of the agency’s “liberality.”

According to the MO, “(a)ll existing permits certificates and licenses, including radio operator certificates, to operate radio communications equipment, networks, and facilities, government or private, in various radio services… issued by the National Telecommunications Commission, expiring within March 15, 2020, to April 14, 2020, or during the Enhanced Community Quarantine Period shall continue to be valid sixty (60) days after the end of the government-imposed quarantine period.”

The senators, for their part, said that it 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.”

Senate Resolution No. 395 was signed by 13 senators — Senate Majority Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Sen. Ralph Recto, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Sen. Sonny Angara, Sen. Joel Villanueva, Sen. Nancy Binay, Sen. Lito Lapid, Sen. Win Gatchalian, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Sen. Leila De Lima and Sen. Pia Cayetano.

Palace: ABS-CBN situation ‘very far’ from ’72 martial law

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque assured that ABS-CBN’s shutdown is not a prelude to the declaration of martial law, after Bishop Broderick Pabillo claimed that the shutdown of the network is a move closer to martial law.

“Nirerespeto po natin ang opinyon ni Bishop Pabillo. Pero ang katotohanan po, bukas po ang Kongreso, bukas po ang Supreme Court at ang ating ibang hukuman, bukas po ang mga media outlets bukod lang po sa ABS-CBN dahil nawalan nga siya ng prangkisa (We respect the opinion of Bishop Pabillo. But the truth is Congress is still open, the Supreme Court and lower courts are still open, media outlets are still open except for ABS-CBN because its franchise expired),” he said.

“So sa tingin ko po, malayong malayo tayo sa sitwasyon ng martial law noong 1972 (So I think the present situation is very far from the 1972 martial law),” he added.

Roque also reiterated that only Congress can give ABS-CBN a fresh franchise, assuring that appropriate actions will be taken by the lawmakers.

“Ang solusyon, kinakailangan hingin ng ABS-CBN ang kaniyang prangkisa sa Kongreso (The solution is ABS-CBN must ask a new franchise from Congress),” he said.

“Hindi naman po bulag at hindi naman bingi ang inyong mga representante sa hinaing ng mga taumbayan (Your lawmakers will not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear),” he added.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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