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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

End of an era? Who is to blame for the lapse of ABS CBN franchise?

While everyone else has been eagerly awaiting updates about the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine, there was another  big piece of news that grabbed headlines yesterday May 4.

I am of course talking about the expiration of the franchise of ABS-CBN.

Even before the ECQ the beleaguered franchise of the country’s largest television network has become controversial and divisive and we've seen a flurry of verbal tussles  from our lawmakers who'd eventually have to decide on its fate.

The issue has become so divisive that there's been countless arguments even on social media as the networks celebrities and stars expressed their support for its continued operations.

But that was before the deadline, now the question at hand is: Can ABS-CBN  operate on the strength of a provisional authority issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) pending the renewal of the network’s franchise by Congress or not?

Last Sunday, the government chief lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida  warned the NTC against issuing a provisional authority in the absence of a Congress-approved franchise. A mere letter from leaders of the House of Representatives nor a resolution from the Senate would suffice to save the telecommunications regulatory body from possible legal responsibility.

And Calida minced no words in his warning that NTC commissioners could be liable under the country’s anti-graft and corruption laws should they grant ABS-CBN the provisional authority to operate without a franchise from Congress.

Former Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has made it crystal clear in the past on what the law says—a law crafted by the same institution that wants to violate it or wants the NTC to infringe it.

“I don’t think the House or a committee of the House can compel the NTC to issue a provisional authority. There is no basis to give a provisional authority because there is no franchise,” Justice Carpio has said in his past interviews.

Every franchise is a law because Republic Act No. 3846 requires all broadcasters to obtain a franchise from Congress before they are allowed to operate. And a provision under the law says a recipient of a franchise must obtain permits and licenses from the NTC in order to operate. 

Another legal luminary, Congressman Edcel Lagman, said that only a full-fledged franchise for ABS-CBN can be allowed to operate. What does this mean?

It means that the only solution, is that  Congress, where all broadcasting franchises emanate, should begin hearing the franchise application of ABS-CBN if it wants the network to continue airing. 

So when you turn on your TV tonight and you dont see the your favorite news programs or tv shows on the Kapamilya channel, it only means that someone or some people didn't do their job.

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