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OSG insists Newsnet has no more franchise to operate

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News and Entertainment Network Corp. (Newsnet) could no longer be allowed to operate and granted a radio frequency after its legislative franchise expired in August 2021, according to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

OSG lawyers raised this argument in their recent pleading filed with a Court of Appeals (CA), which earlier reinstated Newsnet’s provisional authority (PA) to operate and maintain 25.35 to 26.35 GHz spectrum Local Multi-Point Distribution System (LMDS) until Oct. 1, 2021.

The CA’s Special Eleventh Division, in a decision dated Aug. 16, 2022, reversed and set aside the Feb. 9, 2021 and Aug. 21, 2021 orders of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) terminating Newsnet’s PA and directing the latter to cease and desist from operating its system under the said authority.

This decision, penned by Justice Maria Garcia-Fernandez and concurred in by Justices Tita Marilyn Payoyo-Villordon and Emily Aliño-Geluz, was the subject of a pending motion for reconsideration filed by the OSG on behalf of the NTC.

The state lawyers reiterated their request for the CA to reverse its previous ruling in light of the March 31, 2023 decision by the Office of the President (OP) dismissing Newsnet’s petition for review for being moot and for “utter lack of merit.”

In an urgent manifestation filed last April 5, the OSG lawyers urged the CA panel to take a cue from Malacanang in deciding the case of Newsnet, which continues to believe that it was entitled to a radio frequency despite having no legislative franchise.

Assistant Solicitor General Maria Victoria Sardillo and Associate Solicitors Camille Remoroza, Maximilian Perola and Alvin Duane Garge signed the manifestation.

The government lawyers cited the recent presidential decision in which Executive Secretary and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin ruled, among others, that “the expiration of Newsnet’s legislative franchise effectively disqualified it from commercially operating radio transmitters to deliver an interactive pay television and multimedia services, and being allocated with any radio frequency.”

“In other words, the Office of the President effectively ruled that a legislative franchise is necessary – nay, a pre-requisite – to the commercial operation of radio transmitters and receivers, including

LMDS to deliver interactive pay television and multimedia services. Without a legislative franchise, petitioner (Newsnet) cannot be assigned a radio frequency,” the OSG lawyers pointed out.

Last April 3, the OSG also filed a similar manifestation before the CA’s Special Eighth Division where the NTC has a pending motion for reconsideration on the decision of the appellate court to grant the petition for mandamus filed by Newsnet against the Commission and its former commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, who is now the chairman of the Commission on Audit.

The CA’s Special Eighth Division had earlier directed the NTC to faithfully and immediately comply with the Feb. 12, 2020 order of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) wherein it deemed automatically approved Newsnet’s application for a PA or certificate of public convenience for alleged failure of the Commission to act within the time required by law.

This was despite the fact that ARTA had already recalled the Declaration of Completeness or its Feb. 12, 2020 order in a resolution dated June 17, 2022, or barely a month before the CA decision came out.

The OSG lawyers asked the Special Eighth Division to take judicial notice of the same OP decision which dismissed Newsnet’s appeal to reverse ARTA’s order nullifying its earlier ruling on the “automatic approval” of Newsnet’s application.

The OP held that ARTA had no jurisdiction over the assignment of frequencies, the recall of ARTA’s Feb. 12, 2020 order was only proper having been rendered without jurisdiction, and the expiration of Newsnet’s franchise rendered its application moot.


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