SolGen warns NTC prosecution under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act if they give ABS-CBN a provisional franchise

SolGen warns NTC prosecution under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act if they give ABS-CBN a provisional franchise

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) gave a stern warning the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against issuing provisional authorities to ABS-CBN Corp. and its affiliate, ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc., in the absence of a franchise from Congress.

May 4, is the last day of the ABS-CBN Corporation’s franchise while ABS-CBN Convergence’s franchise ended on March 17.

In a statement, Solicitor General Jose Calida said that “the Constitution gives Congress the exclusive power to grant franchises to public utilities, such as broadcasting companies, in order to operate in the country. Although this legislative power may be delegated to administrative agencies through a law, at present, there is no such law giving the NTC or any other agency the power to grant franchises to broadcasting entities.”

Solicitor General Jose Calida files a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court (SC) to forfeit the legislative franchises of ABS CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, ABS CBN Convergence Inc. (PDI)

ABS-CBN and Convergence’s franchise has not been acted upon and is still pending in the committee level in the House of Representative.

While the Senate passed a resolution expressing chamber’s intent that the NTC issue a provisional authority to the Lopez-owned network.

Both houses followed the guidance of the Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s opinion that there is basis for ABS-CBN to be given authority to continue operating while its franchise renewal is pending. 
“There is sufficient equitable basis to allow broadcast entities to continue operating while the bills for the renewal of their respective franchise remain pending with Congress. However, a more stable legal environment could be created if Congress, by a concurrent resolution, would authorize the NTC to issue a provisional authority to these broadcasting companies…until Congress’ final disposition of their franchise renewal bills,” Guevarra said.
But the OSG contradicted the DOJ’s position, reasoning that a franchise must be secured first from Congress before the NTC can issue a Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) from the NTC.
“[A] PA should only be issued once a congressional franchise has been granted and an application for CPC is pending before the NTC for approval. The NTC cannot issue a PA when the broadcast company has no valid and existing legislative franchise,” he said.

“No less than the Constitution requires a prior franchise from Congress. Hence, when there is no renewal, the franchise expires by operation of law. The franchise ceases to exist and the entity can no longer continue its operations as a public utility,” he added.
The SolGen insist that the NTC is wrong in relying on either the Senate resolution, the House committee letter or on a DOJ opinion as legal basis for issuance of provisional authority. 
The OSG threatened NTC commissioners they may face prosecution under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act if they issue the provisional authority to ABS-CBN and Convergence.

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Report from ABS-CBN News

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