Gone in eight days: ABS-CBN shutdown clock is ticking

Today is Sunday, April 26, 2020.

Looking at my calendar, I counted eight days before May 4, 2020.

That’s the day when the franchise of ABS-CBN expires.

The bells are now starting to ring to signal the demise of a media giant that has raked in billions and billions of pesos in profits in the business of cheap entertainment and deceiving the public.

There is no possibility of a last-minute revival. At long last, this broadcast company that is also in the forefront of a destabilization campaign against the government is about to close its doors. Deaths are always a reason for mourning; in the case of ABS-CBN, its shutdown is drawing applause from the Filipino people. For it is a victory of the people against the oligarchy.

On March 16, 2020, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued Memorandum Order No. 01-03-2020 with the subject heading, “Implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine Over Entire Luzon Island Including Metro Manila.”

When this was issued, it appears that it gave the wrong impression that NTC was giving ABS-CBN a 60-day extension after the lifting of the ECQ. This false hope is anchored on Section C of the Memorandum Order:

section C memorandum order no. 01-03-2020

It takes only one reading of the provision to know that it does not grant a 60-day extension to the broadcast operations of ABS-CBN. It refers to permits “necessary to operate and maintain telecommunication facilities nationwide.” Its scope covers permits for telecommunications companies like PLDT, Globe, Smart, Bayantel and the like. “Facilities” are infrastructure and equipment needed to keep our phones and wireless services running while the country is still under lockdown. Broadcast operations do not fall under its ambit.

At this time, with eight days to go, nothing has changed in the status of ABS-CBN. Its shutdown will proceed as scheduled. There is no Provisional Authority to Operate as yet from the NTC, which is why I appealed to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in my Open Letter not to allow this to happen.

Jurisprudence is crystal clear on this matter. On February 17, 2003, the Supreme Court 3rd Division ruled that the NTC has no power to issue a permit to a television network without its first obtaining a legislative franchise. No franchise, no broadcast. The rule is as simple as that.

What about the resolutions adopted by both Houses of Congress that expressed consent for the NTC to issue a Provisional Authority? This is based on the opinion of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who stated that ABS-CBN can be given a new lease on life while Congress is still deliberating its application for a new franchise. And what does it make of the commitment made by Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios that NTC will issue such authority?

All these amount to nothing.

Any freshman law student will have no difficulty telling you that a resolution does not have the weight of a law. A franchise is a law, duly enacted by both Houses of Congress, and approved by the President. Resolutions, on the other hand, are mere expressions of sentiment by Senators and Congressmen/women. The opinion of Justice Secretary Guevarra has persuasive effect, but is not binding. I believe the NTC knows that issuing such a provisional authority has no firm legal footing. Besides, Atty. Larry Gadon has a pending case before the Supreme Court seeking an injunction against it.

Hence, the clock on the wall continues ticking toward May 4, 2020.