A lawyer has asked the Supreme Court to stop the National Telecommunications Commission from granting ABS-CBN Corp. a provisional authority to operate once the television network’s franchise expires on May 4 and Congress has not renewed it.
Lorenzo Gadon also urged the high court to compel House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the House committee on legislative franchises, to withdraw their Feb. 26, 2020 letter to NTC Chairman Gamaliel Cordova.
Gadon said Cayetano and Alvarez’s letter to Cordova on the issuance of a provisional authority to operate violated the doctrine of separation of powers “and [was] issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”
Meanwhile, a lawmaker from the Visayas has apologized to his fellow congressmen over his claim that the 48-member Visayan bloc supported Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s stand on the ABS-CBN franchise issue.
“To my two colleagues, the distinguished gentlemen from Cebu city and my fellow Cebuanos, I humbly offer a hand of peace, Rep. Vincent Franco Frasco said in a privilege speech as he apologized to his fellow Cebuanos Raul Del Mar and Rodrigo Abellanosa.
In his privilege speech Wednesday, Frasco said he lamented “hurting their [Del Mar’s and Abellanosa’s] feelings, but he said he was only expressing that they respect Cayetano who had the majority vote, and “that all of us, majority and minority, observe courtesy and protocol among our colleagues in the handling of matters assigned to specific committees.”
Gadon asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order enjoining the NTC from complying with the letter-directive from the two legislators.
Gadon said he was constrained to file his petition “to preserve the independence of the three branches of government, which is zealously guarded in a democratic system of government.”
Gadon said the franchise of ABS-CBN was granted on March 30, 1995, and was valid for 25 years until March 30, 2020 under Republic Act 79666. But since the law was published only on April 19, 1995, the franchise became valid and enforceable until May 4, 2020.
He said the Office of the Solicitor General filed a quo warranto case against ABS-CBN and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., on Feb. 10, 2020, seeking the forfeiture of the television firm's franchise. The petition is still pending with the high court.
Then came the letter-directive to the NTC of Cayetano and Alvarez on Feb. 26, 2020, he said.
“The NTC has neither authority nor jurisdiction to issue a permit to operate to ABS-CBN when the latter's franchise expires on May 4, 2020,” Gadon said.
“The functions of the NTC are merely regulatory and supervisory. The supposed authority of the NTC to extend an existing broadcast franchise, or to issue a provisional permit to operate sans a valid franchise, is nowhere in the said mandate.”
Citing a 2003 high court decision, Gadon said the High Court ruled that the NTC “is not clothed with any authority to issue such permits to any radio or television broadcast network without an existing and valid legislative franchise.
Besides, the high court had also ruled that “a congressional franchise is required for the operation of radio and television broadcasting stations.
Gadon said “Congress, not Cayetano or Alvarez, had the exclusive jurisdiction to grant, modify, renew or repeal a legislative franchise. With Maricel V. Cruz