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Cease and desist order vs. ABS-CBN has nothing to do with SolGen threat, says NTC exec

The decision of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN has nothing to do with the threat of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) that its commissioners could be slapped with charges, a top official of the agency said Tuesday.

In an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said that the commission’s decision was carefully studied by its legal team.

“It has nothing to do...,” Cabarios said when asked if the earlier threat of the OSG was a factor in issuing the cease and desist against ABS-CBN.

The OSG earlier warned NTC commissioners that they could face Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act charges should they issue ABS-CBN Corporation and its affiliate a provisional authority (PA) to operate after its franchise lapses on May 4, 2020. 

Cabarios added that the NTC has never issued a provisional authority to any expiring congressional franchise.

“We have not issued provisional authority nung mga franchises. We have not issued anything to any network na nag-expire ang franchise,” he said.

The NTC officials said that the possibility of granting a provisional authority to ABS-CBN allow it to operate beyond May 4 was considered because of exchange of information from both chambers of Congress.

To recall, during a legislative hearing, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said it will heed the advice of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and both houses of Congress to allow the company to continue broadcasting. 

Quo warranto

However, Cabarios said, the NTC deemed it “legally proper” to issue a cease and desist order when ABS-CBN’s franchise expired on May 4 and not grant a provisional authority due to a quo warranto petition questioning the legislative franchise the broadcasting network.

“In this particular case kasi may quo warranto petition eh, questioning the franchise... An issue is being raised so the commission saw it legally proper to issue a cease and desist order,” he said.

In February, Solicitor General Jose Calida and his office filed a quo warranto petition agains ABS-CBN asking the Supreme Court to forfeit its franchise as well as that of  subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc.

Calida has alleged that ABS-CBN has been broadcasting for a fee and operating a "pay-per-view channel in ABS-CBN TV Plus, the KBO Channel, without prior approval or permit from the National Telecommunications Commission."

The Solicito General also claimed that ABS-CBN has issued Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners—a similar allegation against online news site Rappler, which the government is prosecuting on other charges.

Calida further alleged that ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. resorted to an "ingenious corporate layering scheme" to transfer its franchise "without the necessary Congressional approval."

Only physical facilities are stopped

Cabarios clarified that ABS-CBN can still air their content to whatever platform as only its physical broadcasting facilities are ordered to stop operating.

“Hindi po kasama ang content. Only the radio stations, ‘yun lang physical facilties,” he said.

“Maraming platform kasi na pwede nila gamitin para ma-ere nila ang content,” he added. — BM, GMA News