ABS-CBN can continue ops pending franchise grant: DOJ

By Benjamin Pulta

May 4, 2020, 4:44 pm

MANILA – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday reiterated that he sees nothing amiss in allowing broadcasting firm ABS-CBN to continue operations during the pendency of deliberations in Congress on whether to extend its franchise, which expires this month.

Speaking to newsmen, Guevarra said "the DOJ stands by its position that there is sufficient equitable basis" to allow broadcast entities to continue operating while the bills for the renewal of their franchise remain pending with Congress.

ABS-CBN Convergence’s franchise expired last March 17 while ABS-CBN Corporation’s franchise ends on May 4.

Guevarra said existing laws provide that a person who wishes to operate a radio/television station must first obtain a legislative franchise and thereafter a license to operate from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

He clarified, however, that no law governs the rights and obligations of a person or entity similar to ABS-CBN "which has already been granted a legislative franchise previously and has fully operated for many years, has applied for the renewal of its franchise long before the expiration, but for reasons not attributable to said person or entity, the legislature has not yet acted on the renewal of said franchise".

Guevarra said in several similar situations in the past, Congress allowed the status quo, without urging the NTC to issue a temporary or provisional permit, in consideration of the equities of the situation.

"In the present case, the subject company had already been granted a franchise and a license to operate, albeit subject to further deliberations for its renewal," Guevarra said.

Solicitor General Calida, who filed a quo warranto suit before the SC questioning the broadcasting firm's use of its franchise, earlier cautioned the NTC against granting provisional authorities (PAs) to operate broadcasting services, to ABS-CBN Corporation and its affiliate, ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc., despite the absence of franchises from Congress.

The Office of the Solicitor General is the NTC’s statutory counsel. (PNA)