Solons hit NTC for failure to stop ABSCBN from using TV Plus, Ch. 43 despite franchise expiration

Remulla sees grounds for filing case before Ombudsman, as Marcoleta airs resignation call for NTC commissioner

(Eagle News) – Several lawmakers hit the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for not immediately stopping ABS CBN in its use of its TV Plus digital box and UHF channel 43 to broadcast its programs even if its legislative franchise had already expired.

During the continuation of the hearing on Monday, June 29, at the House of Representatives, Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla III, Anakalusugan Party list Rep. Mike Defensor, and Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta criticized the NTC, particularly Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba for allowing ABS CBN to operate thru TV Plus and Channel 43 under Amcara Broadcasting Network which happens to also have the same address as ABS-CBN.

-NTC cites ABS CBN violations –

At the start of the hearing, NTC Commissioner Cordoba revealed that ABS CBN was violating the cease and desist order (CDO) it had issued on May 5, a day after the expiration the media network’s legislative franchise.

National Telecommunications Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba answers lawmakers’ questions during the continuation of the House of Representatives’ hearing on the ABS CBN franchise renewal on June 29, 2020 (Eagle News Service)

Cordoba said that the provisional authority it had issued for ABS CBN to use TV Plus and the UHF channel 43 was predicated on the existence of its franchise. With the expiration of its franchise on May 4, the use by ABS CBN of its digital box and Channel 43 was already a violation of the CDO it had issued, he explained.

-OSG guidance sought-

Cordoba said that, the NTC “wanted to be more prudent” and so it sought the opinion of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on the matter.

Kaninang umaga lang po namin na receive ang guidance from the Office of the Solicitor General,” he said explaining the delay in the NTC’s actions.

Cordoba said that the NTC plans to issue an alias cease and desist order to call the ABS CBN’s attention on its violations.

-Grounds for filing Ombudsman case-

Remulla said that this inaction by Cordoba was already grounds for the filing of a case against him before the Ombudsman.

“By tolerance within your power, you made it your job to allow ABS CBN to operate without a franchise,” Remulla told Cordoba.

“Mr. Chairman, I believe that this Committee we already found a ground for this committee to file a case before the Ombudsman against Commissioner Cordoba because he has willfully disobeyed the power of Congress to issue franchises, in allowing an entity to operate without a franchise and earn money at the same time,” he said.

He noted that there were so many advertisements on TV Plus for the past eight weeks

“Because they have committed an ultra vires act, we have a ripe case for the Ombudsman,” Remulla said on Cordoba.

House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta during the June 29, 2020 hearing on the ABS CBN franchise renewal conducted by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises jointly withthe Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.

-Resignation call-

House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta also asked Cordoba to “resign” from his post for not doing his job.

He noted than more than two and a half weeks ago, he had called Cordoba’s attention to the use by ABS CBN of its TV Plus box and the Skycable’s wireless service to continue airing its programs even if its franchise had already expired.

“Kung ako po ang masusunod, sa tingin ko po dapat mag-resign si Commissioner Cordoba because he is not doing his job,” Marcoleta said.

“Para po tayong naiinsulto rito Mr. Chair e,” he said noting the NTC commissioner’s alleged inaction for the past 19 days.

He said that the report on the violations came from the NTC itself, but it had not moved to fully enforce its CDO.

-Execute CDO call-

Rep. Defensor also noted that NTC does not need to issue an alias CDO to ABS CBN and only needs to execute the original cease and desist order it had issued.

Kailangan nyo lang po i-execute,” he said.

He then asked for the NTC’s commitment to stop the illegal operations of ABS CBN.

“The law is the law and we have to obey that,” Defensor said.

“But today, the continuing use of that frequency should stop and lahat ng programa na lumalabas sa frequency na yan ay dapat huminto,” he said.

-Question on Amcara –

ABS CBN President Carlo Katigbak, during the hearing, appealed for their operations to continue “in the spirit of fairness”

He said that on its face, the NTC’s Cease and Desist Order (CDO) does not mention Channel 43.

He said that ABS CBN only has a “block time arrangement” with Amcara, which is normally renewed yearly.

during the June 29, 2020 hearing on the ABS CBN franchise renewal conducted by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises jointly withthe Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.

But Remulla also questioned ABS CBN for this, and said that this was already a violation of law. He also questioned how ABS CBN had acquired Amcara in 1996 and only divested its shares only in 2019.

Katigbak said that ABS CBN will follow whatever will be the decision of the NTC.

The hearing on Monday, June 29, was the eighth day of the hearing on the ABS CBN franchise renewal being conducted by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises jointly with the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.

(Eagle News Service)