Supreme Court asked to block House bid for ABS-CBN provisional permit

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 5)— Another lawyer ran to the Supreme Court to question the legalities in media giant ABS-CBN’s license renewal and operations case.

Atty. Larry Gadon filed before the high court Thursday a “writ of prohibition” ordering House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and House committee on legislative franchises chair Franz Alvarez to recall their request for a temporary permit from the National Telecommunications Commission, pending legislative action on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal measures.

Alvarez, in a letter sent to NTC in February, enjoined Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba to grant ABS-CBN provisional authority to stay on air even after its franchise lapses on May 4. The document was duly confirmed by Cayetano.

Gadon, however, argued that such move violates the doctrine of separation of powers. He stressed that Congress in its entirety has the exclusive power to act on a franchise, and that Cayetano and Alvarez “acted in excess of their authorities and jurisdiction.”

“If respondents wanted to extend, or even renew, the franchise of ABS-CBN, they could have done it by conducting the proper committee hearings and decide, by a majority vote of all the Members of Congress, whether or not to extend, renew, or even grant a new franchise to ABS-CBN. It cannot do so by merely designating NTC to accomplish the “extension/provisional” job for them,” the document read.

In the same plea, Gadon likewise asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order that would restrict Cordoba from complying with the lower chamber’s request for a temporary license.

The lawyer claimed that the NTC does not have the authority to issue permits to corporations with expired franchises, as the body’s functions are only of “regulatory and supervisory” nature. He cited the 2003 Supreme Court ruling (Associated Communications & Wireless Services versus National Telecommunications Commission), which states the need for an existing franchise before a network can operate.

“The NTC cannot issue a CPC unless there is a valid franchise in place,” argued Gadon, referring to a certificate of public convenience. He said his petition aims to “preserve the independence of the three branches of government.”

Last month, Solicitor General Jose Calida also filed a petition before the Supreme Court to revoke the existing franchise of ABS-CBN, saying the TV network has violated rules set by Congress.

READ: Supreme Court decision on mandatory franchise ‘not applicable’ to ABS-CBN case – Drilon 

Can NTC issue a permit?

Some lawmakers earlier allayed concerns over ABS-CBN’s looming shutdown, saying the media company can still broadcast news and content as there are pending renewal measures in Congress.

This was backed by the Justice Department, which said that there is "sufficient equitable basis" to allow media companies to operate while their measures are being tackled in legislature, as the practice has been done in the past.


A 1994 agreement between the House of Representatives, the NTC, and the media group Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas also provides a mechanism for media entities with expiring Congressional franchises.

The memorandum of understanding states that the NTC "shall continue to issue and grant permits or authorizations to operate" for radio and TV stations for a two-year period as long as there is a pending bill seeking to renew their franchise.

Meanwhile, the lower chamber is set to hold its first hearing on the ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal bid on March 10, amid calls for lawmakers to finally act on the twelve pending measures.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.