Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified that the National Telecommunications (DOJ) can issue a provisional authority to operate to ABS-CBN should Congress fail to extend its legislative franchise when it expires on May 3.
This was the opinion given by Guevarra during the first day of the Senate hearing on the ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal on Monday (February 24).
“Congress, by concurrent resolution, may authorize NTC to issue provisional authority subject to such terms and conditions , authorizing them (ABS-CBN) to continue operating subject to Congress’s eventual disposition…,” Guevarra said.
NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, who was also questioned during the hearing, said
with this opinion from the Department of Justice (DOJ), the commission will now wait for the action of Congress and it would give ABS-CBN the provisional franchise.
“We would have to put in the conditions that has to be issued by the NTC so if there are violations to those conditions, then we should be able to withdraw that provisional authority,” Cordoba said.
He recognized that there were indeed instances in the past when companies were allowed to continue to operate even if their franchises had expired. But these were allowed by the NTC based on the instructions given by lawmakers during the congressional hearings on the franchise renewal.
Cordoba said they needed an opinion from the DOJ because the case of ABS-CBN is different since there is a quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General alleging serious violations of the Constitution and laws against the network.
Before questioning the resource persons, senators also gave their opinion on the legality of the hearing they are conducting, as it could be violating the separation of powers among the three branches of government, as prescribed in the Charter, as well as the provision that states all legislative franchises must emanate from the House of Representatives.
The senators agreed that they can proceed with the hearing, as long as they would not report its result to the Senate plenary prior to the submission of the approved bill from the lower chamber.
The network’s leadership came in full force, including Carlo Katigbak, ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer; Mark Lopez, chairman; Cory Vidanes, chief operating officer for broadcast; Mark Nepomuceno; Ron Valdueza, chief finance officer; Maxim Uy, ABS-CBN Legal Division; Mario Bautista, ABS-CBN General Counsel; and Enrique Quiason, ABS-CBN corporate secretary.