NTC asks SC to reject ABS-CBN petition

May 26, 2020

THE National Telecommunications Commission yesterday urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition of ABS-CBN Corp., which challenged the legality of the cease-and-desist order.

In a 98-page comment (157 pages including the annexes), the NTC, which was represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, asked the SC to deny the television giant's petition for lack of merit, and because of the presence of infirmities both in form and substance.

Likewise, the NTC asked the SC to reject ABS-CBN’S plea for the issuance of a status quo ante order or a temporary restraining order, and to drop the Senate and House of Representatives as respondents.

The NTC argued that ABS-CBN’S petition should be dismissed for its failure to comply with the existing Rule on Verification and Certification against Forum Shopping.

Furthermore, the NTC sought the dismissal of the petition, saying there was no grave abuse of discretion on its part when it issued the closure order to ABS-CBN.

It added that ABS-CBN violated the hierarchy of courts when it went straight to the SC, instead of exhausting available remedies like filing a motion for reconsideration before the NTC.

Also, the NTC pointed out that the issue concerning the closure of ABS-CBN involved the renewal of an expired franchise, hence, it falls within the realm of Congress, not courts.

The NTC continued that it has the power to stop broadcasting operations in the absence of a legislative franchise under Republic Act 3846 and Presidential Decree 576-A.

In an order dated May 5, the NTC directed ABS-CBN to stop operating its television and radio broadcasting stations nationwide “absent a valid Congressional Franchise required by law.”

NTC cited Republic Act No. 3846 or the Radio Control Law which states that “no person, firm, company, association, or corporation shall construct, install, establish, or operate a radio transmitting station, or radio receiving station used for commercial purposes, or a radio broadcasting station, without having first obtained a franchise therefor from the Congress of the Philippines.”

ABS-CBN questioned before the high court the legality of the NTC closure order.

In its 46-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, ABS-CBN said NTC gravely abused its discretion when it issued the order, instead of deferring to Congress where bills for the renewal of its legislative franchise have been filed since 2016.

Furthermore, ABS-CBN said the NTC violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution as it allowed in the past similarly situated broadcasting companies to continue to operate by issuing provisional authority.

A total of 15 bills had been filed in the House of Representatives and three in the Senate proposing to grant ABS-CBN another 25 years to operate. Despite inquiries by both chambers early this year, none of the bills were passed.