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Gov't hiding behind law in moves against ABS-CBN —Senator Poe

ABS-CBN's eventual closure was the handiwork of those who are using the law to advance their plans against the broadcast corporation, Senator Grace Poe said Thursday.

In an interview on ANC, the lawmaker also said she can't blame some Filipinos if last Monday's order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to shut down ABS-CBN reminded them of the specter of Marcos' martial rule that began in 1972.

Nevertheless, she said there are some "marked differences" between the two situations and pointed out that this time, it is not the military that is at work.

"In this case, they're not using the military for the takeover, but they the law, and they're hiding behind the law to push for their selfish and suspicious intentions," Poe said.

"Yes, there's an order for a closure—not exactly the same as it was in 1972—but still it will be a closure," she added.

The senator reiterated that the Congress and the Department of Justice had advised the NTC to allow ABS-CBN to operate on a provisional authority while its franchise renewal is still being deliberated on in the House of Representatives.

Initially, the NTC said it would heed the opinion of the Congress and the DOJ, but later on it issued a cease and desist order to the media giant after its 25-year franchise lapsed on May 4.

Prior to that, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), NTC's legal counsel, warned that the commission's executives could face graft charges should they allow ABS-CBN and its affiliate to continue operations through provisional authorities.

"I don't think NTC should be afraid. I think that the reason why they feel really threatened now is because of the threat of graft but if you believe you're doing the right thing, I think your case will hold up in court and especially you have senators behind you," Poe said.

She argued that there were already precedents because the NTC has allowed other media companies to operate through provisional authorities before.

"Ang kanilang ginawa na paghahain ng cease and desist order ay taliwas sa mga ginagawa nila noon. This is more an exception than the rule," Poe pointed out.

"It confuses us why now is the NTC having this position. Either they were duplicitious or deceitful in the hearing or they were pressured by the letter of SolGen [Jose] Calida," she added.

But ABS-CBN's  closure, Poe warned, comes with social and economic repercussions.

"When you threaten one media outlet or one media outlet is in jeopardy, this also sends out a signal to others that we better be watching our back,  we'd better be careful. Somehow that poses a threat for others who would like to cover the news fairly," she added.

Calida defends NTC

Amid criticisms arising from the ABS-CBN's decision to obey the NTC's order, Calida defended the commission, saying, "Why blame NTC when they are only following the law."

"Without a valid and subsisting franchise from Congress, the NTC cannot allow any broadcasting entity from operating in the country," he added.

He also turned the table on lawmakers and questioned why the franchise bill languished in the legislative mill since the 16th Congress.

The NTC has denied allegations that Calida's warning on possible graft raps affected its decision.

Malacañang defended both the OSG and the NTC from criticisms following the closure of ABS-CBN. —Dona Magsinao/LBG, GMA News