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ABS-CBN urges NTC to suspend proceedings to recall frequencies

ABS-CBN has asked the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to suspend proceedings seeking to recall its assigned frequencies while its franchise renewal bills are with Congress and a petition is pending before the Supreme Court (SC).

In its verified answer and compliance to the NTC's show cause order, the broadcast company said there is "no reason... to precipitately recall the frequencies at the expense of ABS-CBN and, worse, to the detriment of viewers and listeners that it has been serving throughout the decades."

Filed last Friday, ABS-CBN's submission argues that recent events in Congress "strongly indicate" that the company will soon be granted a legislative franchise.

It cited the House of Representatives Committee of the Whole's approval on second reading of a bill seeking to grant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise to operate until October 31.

On Monday, the House returned the measure to the plenary to accommodate additional interpellations and amendments from lawmakers.

ABS-CBN further said senators have "expressed their willingness to act swiftly" on the measure, and that presidential spokesman Harry Roque previously announced President Rodrigo Duterte will unlikely block the grant of a franchise.

"These recent developments show that the grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN is forthcoming. An order to recall ABS-CBN's existing frequencies at this time will not only be useless but will even be wasteful," the company told the NTC.

The NTC issued on May 5 a cease and desist order against the operations of dozens of ABS-CBN's radio and television stations across the country. The order came with a directive to show cause why its assigned frequencies should not be recalled after its franchise expired last May 4.

In urging the NTC not to recall the frequencies, ABS-CBN said it would be unable to immediately resume broadcasting if they were to be recalled.

In case the frequencies are reassigned to another party, ABS-CBN said it would have to comply with regulatory processes to transfer to a new set of frequencies and incur "significant capital expenditures" to retune its equipment or replace its broadcast system.

ABS-CBN also told the commission that recalling the frequencies now would "defeat the very purpose for the grant of a legislative franchise to ABS-CBN until 31 October 2020 -- for ABS-CBN to continue its broadcast operations while its franchise applications are being heard by Congress."

It said allowing the company to retain its frequencies is "consistent with legislative policy."

ABS-CBN further said that the recall of its assigned frequencies is "inextricably intertwined" with issues raised in its petition before the Supreme Court (SC) challenging the cease and desist order.

The company has asked the court to stop the implementation of the cease and desist order and to eventually nullify and set it aside.

Out of courtesy to the tribunal, the NTC should wait for the SC's final decision on the case before continuing its proceedings, ABS-CBN said.

It also pointed out that "it has been the practice" of the NTC to allow broadcast entities to keep their assigned frequencies pending the renewal of their legislative franchises.

"For this Honorable Commission to act differently under the similar circumstances and recall ABS-CBN's assigned frequencies would be arbitrary and void," ABS-CBN said.

It likewise argued that the recall of the assigned frequencies may only be done after hearing and compliance with due process. — BM, GMA News