House panel asks NTC to grant provisional authority to ABS-CBN

Robie de Guzman   •   February 27, 2020   •   557

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives has formally asked the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue a provisional authority to allow broadcast network ABS-CBN to continue operating even after the expiration of its franchise in May.

In a letter signed by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and House Committee on Legislative Franchises chairman Franz Alvarez, the House panel enjoined the NTC to grant ABS-CBN a provisional permit to operate effective from May 4, 2020 until such time that the Congress has made a decision on its application.

The House leaders informed the agency that the panel has started deliberating on the network’s application for franchise renewal, noting instruction to all interested parties to submit their position papers for or against the application within 60 days from February 24.

They stressed that the House of Representatives has the exclusive original jurisdiction and authority to act on franchise applications.

“As we have been saying from the start, since ABS-CBN will be allowed to continue its broadcast while we are hearing their renewal, there is no urgency that would justify a hasty proceeding. We want to be sure that this matter is given the importance it deserves,” Cayetano said in a statement.

Cayetano also reiterated his earlier stand that Congress will prioritize more urgent measures, including the rehabilitation of Batangas following Taal Volcano eruption, the prevention of the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the creation of the Departments of Overseas Filipino Workers and Disaster Resilience, as well as several revenue measures being pushed by the Duterte administration that will help bring in millions of new jobs.

There are 12 bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise that remain pending before the Committee on Legislative Franchises. A proposal for a concurrent resolution has also been filed in the Senate seeking the issuance of a provisional permit for ABS-CBN.

In the same letter, the House also asked the NTC to grant ABS-CBN Corporation’s subsidiaries and affiliates, whose franchise applications are pending deliberation with the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, the same provisional authority.

The said subsidiaries and affiliates are ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc., Sky Cable Corporation, and Amcara Broadcasting Network, Inc.

They likewise urged the NTC to include in the respective provisional authorities “terms and conditions that the agency deems appropriate to protect public interest consistent with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”

The House panel also confirmed that the ABS-CBN franchise will expire on May 4, and not on March 30 as widely reported earlier “because RA (Republic Act) 7966 stipulates that the franchise has become effective 15 days from the date of its publication, which was April 19,1995.”

The letter, dated February 26, was addressed to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba.

NTC supports proposed measure on non-expiration of franchise pending renewal

Marje Pelayo   •   May 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has expressed support on a proposed measure seeking the non-expiration of franchises with renewal applications pending in Congress.

Senate Bill Number 1530 filed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon aims to include franchise in Book 7 Chapter 3 Section 18 of the Administrative Code of the Philippines which states that an existing license of a licensee who has made a timely and sufficient renewal application shall not expire until the application has been finally determined.

During the Committee hearing on Thursday (May 27), the NTC said the measure will fill in the gap in the law, noting that it is following Republic Act 3846 or the ‘Radio Control Law’ which provides that no person or firm can operate a radio station without having first obtained a congressional franchise.

“Malaking bagay po ito para po ma-fix ang gap sa batas para po kapag may pending matters ay ito po ay mai-consider na buhay pa [This will help fill the gap in the law to consider a franchise as valid while matters are pending],” explained NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba.

However, the Commission said that it never issued provisional franchises to stations with expired franchises but with pending renewal applications in Congress and just allowed them to continue operating.

Cordoba said what makes the case of ABS-CBN different from others that they had to issue a cease and desist order, was the quo warranto petition filed against the media giant.

He added that they have issued such orders before but only to radio stations who illegally operated during the 2019 elections.

“The difference from those instances on the ABS-CBN issue is that (with) ABS-CBN, a case for quo warranto was actually filed by the solicitor general. Kaya po medyo naging [That’s why it became] untenable on our part to let it continue because of the clear letter of the law in the Republic Act 3846,” Cordoba said.

However, Senator Drilon believes there has been an inconsistency on the part of the NTC in exercising its power in issuing cease and desist orders.

“At the very least, it appears that there is an inconsistency in exercising power (inaudible) in equal protection of the law,” the Senate Minority leader said.

“This is precisely a remedial legislation that we have introduced so that this kind of gap can be addressed,” he concluded. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

House panel approves P1.5-T fund to create jobs amid COVID-19 pandemic

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 28, 2020

The House Defeat COVID-19 Committee has approved a bill seeking to provide a P1.5-trillion fund to create sustainable jobs amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

House Bill 6709 or the proposed “COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act of 2020″ is set to fund infrastructure projects in rural areas to help curb unemployment amid the pandemic.

The CURES Act of 2020 shall also be undertaken with the “Balik Probinsya Bagong Pag-asa Program” and the immediate funding of CURES projects shall target the construction of health centers, school buildings, vocational learning centers, as well as improving fish ports and trading centers at barangay levels.

The House Bill is expected to be sponsored on Thursday (May 28) for its 2nd reading approval in the plenary on Thursday afternoon. It will have to go through a 3rd and final reading before it can hurdle the House.

Meanwhile, representatives of other government agencies such as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) also endorsed the approval of the proposed CURES Act of 2020. –AAC

House solon wants charter change proposals shelved ‘indefinitely’

Robie de Guzman   •   May 21, 2020

Cagayan de Oro Second District Representative Rufus Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro Second District Representative Rufus Rodriguez on Thursday said he will propose the suspension of deliberations on the controversial charter change (Cha-Cha) proposals amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Rodriguez, who chairs the House committee on constitutional amendments, said he is inclined to recommend to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to “shelve Cha-Cha indefinitely” to focus on discussing measures to address the public health crisis and help the Filipino people prepare for the ‘new normal’.

The lawmaker made the proposal following claims that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and other advocates initiated moves to gather up to two million signatures in support of Cha-Cha.

“This is not the time for the DILG and its allies to relaunch their signature drive and renew their push for Cha-cha. They should postpone it until this health crisis is over,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“So my message to Cha-cha advocates and their DILG patrons is: stop it, it won’t fly while there is a pandemic,” he added.

Rodriguez said pushing for Cha-Cha can wait as Congress will first have to attend to measures that will “save lives and the livelihood of our people.”

The DILG earlier denied it has launched a signature campaign for Cha-Cha, branding these reports as fake news. RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

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