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Guevarra: Cease and desist order vs. ABS-CBN ‘immediately executory,’ can be appealed

The National Telecommunications Commission's (NTC) order for ABS-CBN to stop the operations of several of its radio and television stations takes effect immediately but can be reviewed by the courts, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Tuesday.

"A CDO (cease and desist order) is immediately executory but still appealable to the courts," Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

In a separte text message to GMA News, Guevarra said, however. that "it's up to ABS-CBN if it will comply."

The NTC on Tuesday ordered the broadcast giant to "immediately cease and desist" from operating several radio and television stations due to the expiration of its 25-year legislative franchise on Monday, May 4. It also ordered the company to explain within 10 days why the frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled.

The commission issued the order despite saying in March that it will heed the Department of Justice's (DOJ) advice -- that there is sufficient basis to allow broadcast entities to continue operating pending the renewal of their franchise.

Guevarra pointed this out, adding that Congress expressed "essentially the same view." The House of Representatives' franchise committee also enjoined the NTC to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate effective May 4.

"The NTC issued a cease-and-desist order instead. It must have a very good reason for doing so. Let's wait for its explanation," the Justice chief said.

When asked what the legal implications are if ABS-CBN disegards the NTC order and airs tonight, Guevarra replied:  "The NTC will have to enforce it if ABS-CBN will not voluntarily comply."

On Sunday, Solicitor General Jose Calida warned NTC officials that they could face graft charges if they give ABS-CBN a provisional authority. He cited a Supreme Court decision in claiming that the commission cannot issue a provisional authority to a broadcast company that has no valid franchise.

'Forcibly shut down'

ABS-CBN may be "forcibly" shut down by the government should it continue operating despite the National Telecommunications Commission's (NTC) cease and desist order on several of its radio and television stations, a law school dean said Tuesday.

"They can be forcibly closed down by government," Father Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda Graduate School of Law, said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.

Guevarra, for his part, said: "The NTC will have to enforce it (cease and desist order) if ABS-CBN will not voluntarily comply."

Aquino said it has always been his position that ABS-CBN cannot operate without a franchise. "If the legislature would have wanted ABS-CBN to continue operating they should have renewed the franchise prior to its expiration," he said in the radio interview.

He said Congress should speed up the process of granting ABS-CBN a franchise if they would like it to continue operating. —RSJ/NB, GMA News