There is no reason for ABS-CBN to stop its operations following a favorable legal opinion by the Department of Justice, the chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises said on Monday.
In a statement, Rep. Franz Alvarez of Palawan said Congress should be allowed to deliberate on ABS-CBN’s application for the renewal of its broadcast franchise, which expires today.
“Consistent with precedents, the Committee enjoined the National Telecommunications Commission to allow ABS-CBN to operate until such time that the House of Representatives makes a decision on its application. This will give Congress sufficient time to assess the qualifications of the applicant and make a complete review of the positions of the different stakeholders,” he said.
“The power of Congress to legislate is complete, full, and plenary. A legislative franchise is a law and by deciding whether to grant or deny a franchise, it is passing a law and making policy. It should be allowed the courtesy to complete the exercise of its power,” he added.
“With the legal opinion of the Department of Justice and the authority given by the House of Representatives, there is no reason for ABS-CBN to discontinue or stop their operations.”
Alvarez said his panel began deliberating on ABS-CBN’s application before Congress adjourned in March, and had asked interested parties to submit position papers.
The Office of the Solicitor General warned the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Sunday it could be liable for graft it issued a temporary license to ABS-CBN.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra however stood by his opinion that ABS-CBN could be given a provisional authority on the basis of equity and fairness, as its franchise application remained pending in Congress.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Monday the matter was up for the NTC to decide.
“Itong bagay pong ito is a matter that must be dealt with by the NTC as a quasi-judicial body at hihintayin po natin ang sagot ng National Telecommunications Commission. At ang Presidente naman po, ipapatupad po kung ano ang magiging desisyon ng National Telecom Commission,” he told reporters.
Calida in February asked the Supreme Court to void the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN Corp., claiming the country’s largest media network had engaged in “highly abusive practices.”
Sen. Risa Hontiveros questioned the solicitor general’s threat amid a pandemic.
“The Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Department of Justice itself are all in agreement that Congress may allow the NTC to grant a provisional authority to ABS-CBN in the meantime. In fact, it was Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who proposed and confirmed in our Senate hearings that Congress may authorize such action,” she said in a statement.
“It is very strange to me why the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) insists on contradicting the uniform views of not only both houses of Congress, but also the DOJ itself- to which the OSG is attached,” she said.
“Even more questionable is why the government’s chief counsel insists on shutting down a broadcast network in the middle of a health emergency and depriving the public of a critical means to receive timely and accurate information. The OSG has misplaced priorities, and should just focus its energies on supporting government efforts amid the pandemic,” she added. (PressONE.ph)