- Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra explained that it cannot give a legal opinion on this as it includes a legal party, ABS-CBN
- He said that the Congress may authorize the NTC to issue ABS-CBN a provisional authority
The Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to give a legal opinion as requested by the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) on ABS-CBN’s pending franchise renewal which will soon expire.
NTC sought advice from the DOJ on whether or not ABS-CBN can continue operating as its franchise expiration draws near.
In a Senate hearing on Monday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra explained that it cannot give a legal opinion on this as it involves ABS-CBN, a private party, wherein the advice will not be binding.
“Pero pagka merong private individual, or private company, or private interest na involved, like ABS-CBN, hindi kami makapagbibigay ng opinion, because our legal opinion will not be binding on a private company who may actually go to court to have the matter resolved,” he told reporters at the Senate on Monday.
He said he is speculative if ABS-CBN cannot continue operating if its franchise would lapse before lawmakers acted on it.
“Who knows kung talagang magi-expire ‘yang franchise ng ABS-CBN without Congress having acted on it?” he said.
In the presence of ABS-CBN executives and the NTC commissioner, the Justice Secretary said that the Congress may authorize the NTC to issue ABS-CBN a provisional authority.
DOJ had issued an opinion to the NTC in 2018 but Guevarra clarified that it is not meant for one network only.
The Justice Secretary discussed that the NTC asked a legal opinion on a “general query” as he said that the term “commercial purposes” “would include any other type of commercial purpose than the usual advertising income for broadcast companies.”
“And we interpreted the phrase ‘commercial purposes’ broad enough to include any other sources of income apart from the usual advertising, but subject to any specific guidelines that the National Telecommunications Commission may enforce,” the Justice chief explained.
He implied that the giant network can generate income from other programs, like its Kapamilya Box Office (KBO) channel.
He said, “That is correct because the term is general enough: ‘for commercial purposes.'”
Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the Supreme Court to revoke the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc, for its “highly abusive practices” and “benefiting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers.”
ABS-CBN President and Chief Executive Officer Carlo L. Katigbak denied that the company violated any of its franchise provisions in a Senate hearing last Monday. The network’s lawyers have filed their official comment to the OSG’s quo warranto petition.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said the company has paid taxes and has no violation of law as far as far as they know.