On May 5th, the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN. It was issued on the basis of the expiration of its congressional franchise. The order effectively shut down the country’s largest TV network.
Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano broke his silence on the ABS-CBN shutdown this Friday. On a Facebook post, he explains that Congress put the ABS-CBN franchise renewal on their record of priorities as early as his first month serving as speaker of the house.
However, while Congress remained on track with their priority legislation certain events – such as the eruption of Taal Volcano in January – “necessitated adjustments in the Congressional calendar.” The COVID-19 outbreak only delayed it further.
“It is in this context that the leadership of the House tried to gain a consensus with the Executive Department, through the DOJ and the NTC, to allow us time to properly address the ABS-CBN issue in the midst of all the other more important problems facing the country,” he says.
“Last March, members Congress and the whole nation listened to the head of the National Telecommunications Commission give his word that they would issue a Provisional Authority that would allow the network to continue broadcasting until we are able to reach a final decision,” he continues.
Given that, Cayetano calls the NTC’s cease and desist order against ABS-CBN an “ambush”.
Cayetano writes: “Despite their assurance given under oath. Despite the legal opinion of the Department of Justice. Despite a resolution from the Senate, and several verbal and written assurances given to Congress – the NTC appears to have succumbed to pressure from the Solicitor General, and issued a cease and desist order to ABS-CBN.”
Cayetano then invokes the “exclusive constitutional authority to grant, deny, extend, revoke, or modify broadcast franchises” of Congress. He says that the jurisdiction to make determinations on legislative franchises “resides in Congress and Congress alone.”
“So for those asking what Congress will do – the answer is simple – our job,” he states. “The Committee on Legislative Franchises will conduct hearings in a manner that is consistent with what we have always said. That is – fair, impartial, thorough, and comprehensive.”
“We would have wanted to do this in an orderly manner. But what we want and what we have to deal with are two different things. So this Congress has no choice but to once again rise to the occasion and fix the mess others make. To our critics, in and outside of the House, you are free to say what you will. As we are free to respond in our own way.”
“As for the sudden flip-flopping of the NTC and the unconstitutional meddling by the Solicitor General in the business of Congress, I promise you – there will be a reckoning,” Cayetano ends his post.
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