Sen. Franklin Drilon said the order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to take out ABS-CBN from the airwaves violated the equal protection clause of the constitution, and placed other expired franchises in danger.

“The cease and desist order against ABS-CBN is not only a grave abuse of discretion on the part of the NTC, it also infringes on the constitutional guarantee of equal protection,” Drilon said in a statement.

“It is of record and public knowledge that NTC has allowed and is allowing franchisees to operate even after the lapse of their franchises as long as the bills renewing their franchises are pending before Congress,” he added.

Drilon pointed out that PT&T, SMART Communications, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, TV5, Subic Broadcasting and others were allowed to operate after the expiration of their franchises.

“Why was ABS-CBN singled out here?” he asked.

Drilon said the 1987 Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of property without due process of law nor shall any person be deprived of equal protection of laws. The equal protection of the law clause requires that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike both as to rights and responsibilities imposed.

Drilon explained that similar subjects should not be treated differently as to give undue favor to some and unjustly discriminate against others

He also cited Section 23 of the Public Telecommunications Policy Act, which contains an Equality Clause that states: “any advantage, favor privilege or immunity granted to existing franchises shall ipso facto become part of previously granted telecommunications franchises and shall be accorded immediately and unconditionally to the grantees of such franchises.”

“By ordering ABS-CBN to stop operations after the lapse of its franchise while allowing other similarly situated to continue to operate, then, clearly, the NTC is placing ABS-CBN in a class of its own, thereby violating the equal protection clause mandated by the Constitution,” Drilon said.

Drilon accused the NTC of acting in grave abuse of authority.

“It has a ripple effect because other franchisees similarly situated with the ABS-CBN will also have to cease operation eventually. It has negative consequences and far-reaching implications,” he said.

Describing it as a “tragedy” not just on the company, but for the Filipino people, Sen. Grace Poe said the closure of ABS-CBN network should serve as a “wake-up call” to Congress to live up to its mandate of granting franchises.

“When you threaten one media outlet or when one media outlet is in jeopardy, this also sends out a signal to others that we better be watching our back, we better be careful and somehow that poses a threat for others who would like to cover the news fairly,” Poe said in a television interview Thursday.

“I think this has a larger impact than just on ABS-CBN, this is not just a tragedy of one person, of one company. Hindi lang ito trahedya ng iisang kumpanya, ito ay trahedya ng lipunan, ‘pag nangyari ito, sapagkat ipinapakita natin na pwedeng baluktutin ang batas para lang maserbisyuhan ang layunin ng iilan,” she said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said on Thursday she would file a resolution asking the NTC to reverse its order.

“I hope that more of my colleagues in the Senate express support to this resolution. At sana pakinggan na ito ng NTC kasi sa huli, ang mga Pilipino talaga ang talo sa cease and desist order,” she said. (PressONE.ph)