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SolGen: NTC execs risk being charged over ABS-CBN provisional authority


The Office of the Solicitor General warned commissioners of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) that they could face Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act charges should they issue ABS-CBN Corp. and its affiliate a provisional authority (PA) to operate after its franchise lapses on May 4, 2020.

Citing a Supreme Court decision in 2014, Solicitor General Jose Calida said that a PA could not be issued to ABS-CBN Corp. and its affiliate ABS Convergence Inc., as this could only be granted to an entity after a franchise from Congress was secured.

"Hence, a PA should only be issued a congressional franchise has been granted and an application for CPC is pending before the NTC for approval," Calida claimed.

"The NTC cannot issue a PA when the broadcast company has no valid and existing legislative franchise," he added.

The SolGen's threat was issued as  ABS-CBN Corp.'s congressional franchise was set to lapse on Monday, May 4, 2020.

Earlier, the House of Representatives' Committee on Legislative Franchises -- through a letter from House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and panel chair Franz Alvarez dated February 26, 2020 -- formally requested the NTC to grant ABS-CBN a PA to be able to operate beyond May 4.

NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba in March said the agency would heed the request, as advised also by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Senate.

"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," said Calida.

Calida also claimed the NTC could not act on Cayetano's letter and the Senate resolution, as these do not grant the NTC the power to issue PAs in contravention of existing laws.

"These issuances cannot amend the current law requiring a congressional franchise for the operation of broadcasting networks. Not being separate laws themselves, they cannot amend or repeal prior laws," he said. — DVM, GMA News

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