DOJ: Congress may authorize NTC to grant ABS-CBN provisional permit


Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told the Senate on Monday, February 24, that Congress may authorize the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to give ABS-CBN the provisional permit to continue operating after the lapse of its franchise.

“It is therefore respectfully submitted that the Congress, by a concurrent resolution, may authorize the National Telecommunications Commission to issue a provisional authority subject to such terms and conditions as the NTC may deem fit to ABS-CBN and other entities similarly situated,” Guevarra told the Senate committee on public services chaired by Senator Grace Poe.

Guevarra made the statement ahead of the issuance of a legal opinion by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to the NTC on the issue and as the Senate began looking into the terms of the ABS-CBN franchise which President Rodrigo Duterte wants scrapped.

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said “it is possible” that the legal opinion may have more content than Guevarra’s statement to the Senate.

Guevarra also clarified that ABS-CBN’s franchise actually expires on May 4 and not March 30.

While Republic Act No. 77966 or the law that gave ABS-CBN its franchise was enacted March 30, 1995, it was published only on April 19 and took effect 15 days later or May 4.

Can NTC take away its provisional authority by itself?

NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said that should Congress give the go signal to a provisional authority, the commission can withdraw it by itself.

“If there are violations of the conditions, we should be able to withdraw the provisional authority,” said Cordoba.

Opposition Senator Franklin Drilon raised this matter because he was concerned that it wouldn’t be much of an assurance for ABS-CBN if an administrative agency like the NTC can withdraw a temporary permit anytime.

Drilon asked Cordoba if he would agree that Congress should just give ABS-CBN a temporary franchise lasting for 3 years.

“So at the very least, ABS-CBN can operate independently without the sword of damocles of NTC threatening to withdraw the temporary authority anytime?” Drilon said.

It is Drilon’s position that if Congress, by its sovereign power, grant a 3-year temporary franchise, then it would be something that the NTC cannot take away because it would have come from the legislature, which is mandated to issue franchises.

“We subject to the wisdom of Congress,” said Cordoba.

“I notice you are avoiding to answer the question,” said Drilon.

On the question of Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Cordoba said they have never before withdrawn a provisional authority to a franchise grantee. –

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