- Salvador Panelo said NTC cannot legally grant ABS-CBN provisional permit.
Malacanang said it might be illegal for the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue provisional authority to ABS-CBN once their franchise expires.
In a statement to Malacanang reporters, spokesman Salvador Panelo explained that the NTC can no longer give provisional authority to the network once its franchise lapses since there’ll be no more franchise to provisionally authorize.
“A provisional authority cannot be legal because the NTC cannot give provisional authority if there is no franchise,” said Panelo.
“If the franchise expires, then there is nothing to give provisional authority for an extension. If they do that, that might be most likely subject to a constitutional question before the Supreme Court,” he added.
According to Panelo, if congress can craft resolutions urging the NTC to issue provisional authority why not pass the franchise bill or make a law that will authorize NTC to give such permits to those media entities with an expired franchise.
“If they are so minded as to giving provisional authority to ABS-CBN, why they don’t pass a bill [that gives] such provisional authority while they will discuss the very merits of case?” he said.
“To put an end to any question on the legality and constitutionality, pass a bill, make it into law, grant them provisional authority,” he said.
On Wednesday, March 4, the majority of Senators have passed a resolution addressed to the NTC asking it to allow ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries to continue their operations beyond their franchise expiry.
Congress on the other hand through the Committee on Legislative Franchises has already asked NTC on February 26 to grant ABS-CBN provisional permit to operate while they are still discussing the network’s franchise renewal bills.
Talks about the provisional permit to operate were discussed during the Senate hearing regarding ABS-CBN franchise violations.
At the hearing, Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the NTC can issue provisional authority to ABS-CBN is the Congress asks for it.
However, in his latest pronouncements, DOJ is now claiming that the NTC cannot be legally compelled to grant a provisional permit to ABS-CBN.
“No one ever said that a resolution can replace a full-fledged franchise law,” said Guevarra
“Here we are talking about a vacuum that arises when a franchise expires and the Congress has yet to act on the franchise renewal bill,” he added.
It was Guevarra’s opinion in the Senate hearing that since there is no clear law barring the NTC to grant such permit then the law of equity should apply since NTC previously allowed other media companies to continue operations past their franchise expirations.
Two former Supreme Court Chief Justices also agreed that ABS-CBN should be allowed to operate through provisional permit.
“Hindi naman kasalanan ng ABS-[CBN]. Nagawa na ang lahat ng dapat gawin, lahat ng requirements nandiyan na. Hindi kasalanan ng ABS-CBN na wala pa silang franchise,” said Panganiban.
“In between na pinag-uusapan ng Kongreso kung iga-grant o ide-deny ‘yong franchise ay puwede namang mag-operate ‘yong company kung bibigyan ng Kongreso ng provisional permit,” Puno said.
“‘Yong question ng provisional authority, hindi napakahirap ‘yon eh. Hindi naman kailangan mag-conduct ng maraming public hearing. Public hearing do’n sa main question whether Congress would grant or deny the franchise,” Puno added.
Meanwhile, 11 franchise renewal bills are still pending in Congress. Committee on Legislative Franchises latest pronouncements said it has scheduled the hearing for ABS-CBN’s franchise on March 10.