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Drilon sees lopsided implementation of the law by NTC in ABS-CBN case

By Hannah Torregoza

Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday reiterated his belief the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) committed grave abuse of authority when it issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN Corporation even while its application for franchise renewal is still pending in Congress.

Senator Franklin Drilon (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Franklin Drilon
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Drilon said such move constitutes grave abuse of discretion and has a chilling effect on the country’s press freedom.

The Senate minority chief pointed out that unlike in the case of ABS-CBN, NTC did not issue any cease and desist order against PT&T, Smart Communications, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), TV5 and Subic Broadcasting when their respective legislative franchises expired.

“Maliwanag po ang pag-abuso ng kapangyarihan. Iyan ay base sa kanilang gawain na yung ibang prangkisa na nag-expire habang ito ay tinatalakay sa Kongreso, hindi sila nag-issue ng cease and desist order (CDO) (It’s clear there is abuse of authority. And that is due to the fact they did not issue a cease and decease order on other franchises that expired while these are being deliberated in Congress),” Drilon said in an interview over DZRH.

“Bakit hindi nag-issue ng CDO ang NTC? Ngunit dito sa ABS-CBN mabilis silang mag-issue ng CDO. Hindi patas ang application of the law (Why didn’t NTC issue a cease and desist order? But they were fast in issuing one with ABS-CBN. The application of the law isn’t fair),” Drilon lamented.

Drilon added this has a “chilling effect on freedom of the press.” He also described the NTC’s move as a “condemnable act.”

“Ngunit ang pag-aabuso sa kapangyarihan ay maliwanag dahilan sa hindi equal o patas ang treatment sa ABS-CBN at ibang franchise holder. Iyan ay maliwanag na pang-aabuso sa kapangyarihan (But the grave abuse of discretion is clear, primarily because they did not give equal treatment to ABS-CBN and other franchise holders. That is clearly abuse of authority),” the former justice secretary reiterated.

Drilon said he hopes that ABS-CBN will seek legal remedy and file a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court (SC) as soon as possible.

“Sana po ay mag-issue kaagad ng TRO ang SC lalo na sa panahon ngayon na nakikinig tayong lahat sa mga himpilan para malaman ang status ng COVID-19. If there is no sufficient communication, mapeperwisyo ang taumbayan (I hope the SC can issue a TRO immediately, especially at a time when all of us are relying on media networks to inquire about the status of the government’s COVID-19 response. If there is no sufficient communication, the people would be at a great disadvantage),” he said.

Senators have earlier called on the House of Representatives to expedite the passage of the franchise renewal application of ABS-CBN. During a Senate hearing, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Congress may authorize the NTC to issue a provisional authority allowing ABS-CBN to operate while the measure is still pending.

However, Solicitor General Jose Calida warned that NTC officials could face graft charges if they choose to follow the request of lawmakers to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority.

This forced the NTC to issue a cease and desist order on Tuesday afternoon, and forced ABS-CBN to go off-air immediately after.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/05/06/drilon-sees-lopsided-implementation-of-the-law-by-ntc-in-abs-cbn-case/)

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