The Department of Justice (DOJ) is standing by its legal opinion regarding ABS-CBN’s operation sans renewal of its franchise.
In a statement Monday, May 4, 2020, DOJ Sec. Menardo Guevarra reiterated his position that ABS-CBN can continue operating while its franchise renewal is still pending in Congress.
“The DOJ stands by its position that there is sufficient equitable basis to allow broadcast entities to continue operating while the bills for the RENEWAL of their franchise remain pending with Congress,” said Guevarra.
“While existing laws provide that a person who wishes to operate a radio/TV station must first obtain a legislative franchise and thereafter a license to operate from the NTC, there is NO LAW that governs the rights and obligations of a person or entity who has ALREADY BEEN GRANTED a legislative franchise and has fully operated for many years, has applied for the renewal of its franchise long before the expiration thereof, but for reasons not attributable to said person or entity, the legislature has not yet acted on the renewal of said franchise,” he added.
Guevarra also clarified a Supreme Court decision regarding broadcast franchises. According to Guevarra that the case of ACWS is different from ABS-CBN since the former is applying for their initial franchise while ABS-CBN is just renewing its existing franchise.
“The subject of the ruling, Associated Communications & Wireless Services-United Broadcasting Networks (ACWS), ”did not even have an original franchise to begin with.’ ABS-CBN has ‘a franchise and a license to operate, albeit subject to further deliberations for its renewal,”‘ Guevarra explained.
Guevarra’s statement came on the heels of Solicitor General Jose Calida’s latest statement warning the National Telecommunications Commission against granting ABS-CBN provisional authority.
In a statement Sunday, May 3, Calida cautioned NTC that that might be subjected to graft charges if they will grant ABS-CBN provisional authority.
“Although this legislative power may be delegated to administrative agencies through a law, at present, there is no such law giving the NTC or any other agency the power to grant franchises to broadcasting entities,” he said in the statement.
“Hence, a PA should only be issued once a congressional franchise has been granted and an application for CPC is pending before the NTC for approval,” Calida said.
“The NTC cannot issue a PA when the broadcast company has no valid and existing legislative franchise. No less than the Constitution requires a prior franchise from Congress. Hence, when there is no renewal, the franchise expires by operation of law. The franchise ceases to exist and the entity can no longer continue its operations as a public utility,” he added.
ABS-CBN’s franchise is set to expire on May 4, 2020.