General Admission

Did NTC infringe on Congress’s power re ABS-CBN case?

By Al S. Mendoza


CHANNEL 2 of media TV giant ABS-CBN closed its programming on May 5.

That was in compliance of a May 5 order by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

Two other ABS-CBN radio stations (dzMM and MRR) were shut down as well on May 5.

The NTC did that because ABS-CBN’s permit to operate expired on May 4.

Spared from closure were ABC-CBN’s cable stations like Cinemo, TFC (The Filipino Channel), Yey, ANC, etc.

Technically, they were not listed in the original ABS-CBN franchise expiring May 4.

ABS-CBN’s Channel 2 and dzMM/MRR had applied to renew their permit to operate but Congress failed to act on it before the expiry date (May 4) lapsed.

By law, only Congress’s Lower House can either approve or disapprove, renew or reject applications to do business using air waves, such as ABS-CBN to GMA7 and TV5 for that matter.

That is so because the airwaves is owned by the state.

Like broadcast businesses, airline companies also need a Congress approval to operate simply because airplanes cannot fly without the airwaves aka frequencies or broadcasting/radio frequencies.

While Congress wields practically all the power in this regard, the NTC serves as the government’s regulatory body and, sadly, seemingly, also the interpreter of laws pertaining to frequency franchises.

The law ought to be changed as to shift to Congress the sole power to determine which is which in the law of the airwaves.

As things stand, Congress appears to be a lame duck in the face of NTC’s palpable power to throw its weight around when it so desires?

What seems so obvious in the ABS-CBN case is, the NTC holds what appears like an absolute power to either allow or not a broadcasting outfit to operate, in the process infringing on Congress’s province of exclusive authority?

And whatever happened to that one-word template revered by so-called gentlemen, when NTC promised on February 24 to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate during the Congress hearing on the outfit’s franchise renewal?

By reneging on its vow, done under oath, of telling the truth and nothing but the truth, was NTC not guilty of perjury?

And by committing perjury, will that not merit an outright contempt slapped NTC’s three commissioners headed by Gamaliel Cordoba?

Such contempt, when enforced, could send Cordoba & Co. to a “house arrest” at the Congress premises.

When that happens, they’d be released only if they withdrew the closure order they had imposed on ABS-CBN?

Of course, we could readily erase that scenario the minute Congress approves ABS-CBN’s request for an extension of its permit to operate.

So, the key therefore to end this impasse is a Congress action ASAP to either renew or reject ABS-CBN’s wish to continue operating.

Now, with that done, finally, and you will still insist on not lifting that contempt veil hanging over the head of NTC’s trio los panchos, proceed.  Be my guest.

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