By Joseph B.A. Marzan
The Supreme Court (SC) on May 8, 2020 did not act on the petition of ABS-CBN Corporation to nullify the Cease-and-Desist Order (CDO) issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on May 5.
The NTC ordered the Lopez-led network to immediately stop the operations of all its free-to-air television channels and AM and FM radio stations nationwide after the expiration of its franchise on May 4.
On May 7, the network filed the petition arguing that the NTC committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the CDO, as it had previously allowed other stations with pending Congressional franchise renewals to continue operations.
The network also assailed the NTC for not giving them a chance to be heard.
On Friday, the SC held an online en banc session via Zoom where it deliberated several matters.
In an online article, ABS-CBN said a source revealed that the petition was not included in the matters discussed by the court.
In a press release, the SC said that the petition will be raffled to a Member-in-Charge on May 11, who will then make recommendations to the En Banc.
On Friday, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano broke his silence on the issue after they were blamed for sitting on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.
Cayetano released a statement through his Facebook page where he lambasted the NTC for hoodwinking them.
The House Speaker said that the NTC “ambushed the country,” recalling its promise to the Committee on Legislative Franchises that it will allow the network to continue to operate despite the expiry of its franchise.
He added that the agency had succumbed to pressure from Solicitor-General Jose Calida.
Calida on May 3 issued a warning that his office would file graft charges against NTC should it grant provisional authority to ABS-CBN after May 4.
He said that Congress has the exclusive Constitutional mandate to tackle legislative franchises.
“Last Tuesday we were all ambushed by the NTC. Despite their assurance given under oath. Despite the legal opinion of the Department of Justice. Despite a resolution from the Senate, and several verbal and written assurances given to Congress – the NTC appears to have succumbed to pressure from the Solicitor General, and issued a cease and desist order to ABS-CBN,” Cayetano said.
The Speaker recognized Congress’ duty to deliberate on the franchise, saying that the Committee on Legislative Franchises will discuss the matter.
“While this unnecessarily complicates the issue, it does not change the fact that the exclusive Constitutional authority to grant, deny, extend, revoke, or modify broadcast franchises; Including having the primary jurisdiction to make an initial determination whether an application for a legislative franchise should be granted or denied – still resides in Congress and Congress alone. So for those asking what Congress will do – the answer is simple – our job. The Committee on Legislative Franchises will conduct hearings in a manner that is consistent with what we have always said. That is – fair, impartial, thorough, and comprehensive,” he said.
Despite the Speaker’s remarks, the schedule of committee meetings posted on the House’s website did not include the Committee on Legislative Franchises or ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.