The ABS-CBN’s franchise expires today May 4, 2020, and only the National Telecommunications Commission has the sole authority to decide whether the giant network will continue operating or not.
Over the weekend, Solicitor General Jose Calida warned the NTC officials that they will face graft charges, if they allow the giant network to operate beyond its franchise expiration date. According to Calida, there is no such law that permits the NTC to grant franchises.
Calida said on his statement: “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.
“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.
“Risk subjecting themselves to prosecution under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”
In which the Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque opposed: “Ang Solicitor General ay alter ego ng ating Presidente, at sumulat nga siya sa NTC. This must be dealt with by the NTC as a quasi-judicial body. Aantayin po natin ang sagot ng NTC. Ang desisyon po ng NTC ang ipapatupad ng Presidente. Hindi puwedeng impluwensiyahan ng Presidente ang NTC.”
Both the Department of Justice and House sent a letter to NTC to allow ABS-CBN to operate amidst its pending Congress action on the franchise bills. On March 16, 2020, NTC released an official statement that all on-going permits to operate and maintain broadcast and pay-TV facilities that are bound to expire during the enhanced community quarantine will be automatically renewed.
Since August 2019, there are 11 bills that have been filed seeking for ABS-CBN franchise renewal for another 25 years. Unfortunately, the panel only had the time to conduct the first hearing last March 10, 2020, six days before President Duterte decided to place the Luzon under enhanced community quarantine due to COVID-19 disease.