NTC defends ABS-CBN shutdown order

THE National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) yesterday defended its move to shutdown ABS-CBN Corporation, stressing it is “just adhering to the law.”

NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba attended the hearing on the franchise bills conducted jointly by the Committees on Legislative Franchises and Good Government.

Solicitor General Jose Calida also appeared the hearing after the House leaders summoned him.

The NTC officials were asked by the House committees to explain why the agency did not accede to the request of the Congress to grant ABS-CBN Corp. a provisional authority to operate while the ABS-CBN franchise bills are pending for approval.

In yesterday’s hearing, Cordoba pointed out that the NTC has no ill motive against ABS-CBN but is only doing its job.

“Trabaho lang ang aming isinagawa alinsunod sa mandato ng aming ahensya na naaayon sa batas.  

“Walang bahid o intensyon na makasakit ng damdamin o ‘di kaya’y mag-abuso sa kahit kanino man. Sana po sa aming pagpapatupad n gaming trabaho ay wag mabigyan ng anumang kulay o interpretasyon na ito ay may masamang hangarin,” Cordoba said.

On May 5, the NTC issued a cease and desist order shutting down ABS-CBN after its franchise ended on May 4.

But earlier on  March 10, Cordoba assured members of the legislative franchises committee that they would follow the advise of the Department of Justice allowing the company to operate.

Meanwhile,  Calida told the committees that he will not answer questions related to the pending cases against the television giant.

Calida has filed a quo warranto petition againt ABS-CBN to nullify the existing franchise of the broadcasting company.

According to the official, the sub judice rule restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to the judicial proceedings in order to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court and obstructing the administration of justice.

The House committees sent an invitation to ABS-CBN former chairman and president Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III to appear in the next hearing set on Wednesday to clarify issues on his citizenship.

During the joint hearing, ABS-CBN president Carlo Katigbak stressed that the company has not violated any law and has remained compliant with the constitution of the Philippines.

Katigbak reiterated that Lopez is a natural born Filipino citizen by virtue of his being born to Filipino parents, specifically his father, in 1952, consistent with the 1935 constitution.

Katigbak added that the Philippine Depository Receipts issued by ABS-CBN Holdings Inc., has been cleared and upheld as legal by the Securities and Exchange Commission in October 4, 1999.

He said ABS-CBN Holdings Inc. is a totally different entity from ABS-CBN Broadcasting Inc. which holds the congressional franchise of the frequencies. It is the same with GMA Channel 7.

On the allegation that franchises are limited to a total of 50 years, ABS-CBN reiterated that the maximum 50 years is for a single term franchise and not the total limit of any single public utility franchise.

“This is the reason that others -- such as GMA7, Meralco and the like  -- with franchises going beyond 50 years exists,” Katigbak said.

The franchise of ABS-CBN expired last May 4, the reason why the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order.

Lastly, on the issue that was given ABS-CBN for free by President Corazon Aquino after the EDSA revolution in 1986, Katigbak pointed out that the company was never transferred to the Marcos government or any of the dictator’s cronies.

“Rather, the broadcast facilities were used by Roberto Benedicto’s KBS/ RPN and BBC and later by the government’s PTV-4 until both had their own facilities in Broadcast City and Visayas Avenue, respectively. The Lopez family never sold it. The government with the Supreme Court returned everything fully six years later,” Katigbak added.

At least 11 solons have defended ABS-CBN and are pushing for the approval of the 25-year franchise, emphasizing that the services rendered in entertainment, news, and public service have benefitted a majority of the Filipinos throughout the archipelago and all over the world.

Among the authors of the franchise bills are Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda; Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto; Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones; Paranaque Rep. Joy Tambunting; and other Makabayan solons.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, author of HB 5705 and 6694, touched on the citizenship of Gabby Lopez and the PDRs.

“As former dean of San Sebastian college, these allegations have no basis. First, Mr. Eugenio Lopez III is born to Filipino parents. DOJ and BI have both recognized this,” Rodriguez said.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Micaela Violago said millions of Filipinos do not have access to news and entertainment television amid the ABS-CBN shutdown.

Aragones said  ABS-CBN went above and beyond by helping those in need.

“All of this and many more is what ABSCBN is all about. In the service of Filipino. Lahat ng tulong na ito kapag walang bagong franchise ay magiging bahagi na lang ng kwento. ABS-CBN went above and beyond the obligations of a broadcast network by helping those in need, no matter how far they may be,” Aragones said.

“All the 11,000 employees of the Kapamilya network feel the same way I do. Ito ang labis kong kinatatakutan: na ‘pag mawala ang ABS-CBN, ang lahat ng tulong nito ay magiging bahagi na lang ng isang lumang kwento,” she added.

As part of the entertainment industry, Santos-Recto expressed concern over reports that 11,000 employees may be displaced.

“This is the best opportunity for ABSCBN to clear all the issues. ABSCBN is already an institution when it comes to broadcast and public service. I am saddened that 11000 employees will be displaced. Sa pagtigil ng operasyon, mawawala na po ang mga programang nagbibigay saya. Let us give due consideration to the talents of ABS-CBN. Mahalaga pa rin na nandiyan po ang ABSCBN,” Santos-Recto stressed.