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House panel orders NTC to explain why it should not be cited in contempt over ABS-CBN shutdown


The House Committee on Legislative Franchises has ordered officials of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to explain why they should not be cited in contempt for issuing a cease and desist order to stop the broadcast operations of ABS-CBN.

This was after the commission assured the House in a March 10 hearing of the panel that it would grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate as the franchise renewal bills of the company were being deliberated.


"The act of the NTC constitutes undue interference on and disobedience to the exercise of the power of the House of Representatives, and therefore, an affront to its dignity and an inexcusable disrespect of its authority," the order read.

"Your failure to comply with this Order within the period prescribed will result in a finding against you for contempt of the House of Representatives and subject you to other actions that are within the powers of the House of Representatives to enforce," it added.

The order was addressed to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, Deputy Commissioners Edgardo Cabarios and Delilah Deles, and Atty. Ella Blanca Lopez, head of the commission's legal branch. The commission was compelled to answer the order within 72 hours of receipt.

The order was dated May 5, although according to a staff at the office of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, it was sent to the NTC via email only at 12:36 p.m. on Monday.

The Office of the Commissioner at the NTC acknowledged receipt of the order at 12:46 p.m.

Later, House Committee on Legislative Franchises chair Franz Alvarez sent to reporters a revised order with a corrected date of May 11.

 

At least 11 bills were filed at the House of Representatives in the 18th Congress to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN for another 25 years after it expired on May 4.

However, it was only on March 10 that the committee formally deliberated on the measures.

During the said meeting, Cordoba committed to the panel that the NTC will allow ABS-CBN to remain on air pending congressional action on its franchise application on the basis of equity by issuing them provisional authority.

No provisional authority was issued eventually, and instead NTC ordered ABS-CBN to cease its broadcast operations on May 5 following the expiration of its franchise.

In a statement on Friday, Cayetano hit NTC for apparently succumbing to the pressure from Solicitor General Jose Calida as it issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN despite its commitment to the House.

Calida warned NTC commissioners that they could face graft charges if they would give ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate.

"As for the sudden flip-flopping of the NTC and the unconstitutional meddling by the Solicitor General in the business of Congress, I promise you—there will be a reckoning,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano also said that the House would proceed with its "fair, impartial, thorough, and comprehensive" hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise issue.

As of Monday, however, the House has yet to announce a schedule for the hearing on the matter. --KBK, GMA News

 

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