(UPDATED May 5; 5:54 p.m.) Calls opposing the shutdown of broadcast giant ABS-CBN were once again launched online on Tuesday after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease-and-desist Order against the network “due to the expiration of its congressional franchise.”
In an order dated May 5, 2020, the NTC ordered the network “to stop operating its various television” and radio broadcasting stations nationwide “ citing that the congressional franchise is required by the law.
The NTC said ABS-CBN is given ten days upon receipt of the Order to explain why the frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled.
The 25-year franchise of ABS-CBN, granted on March 30, 1995 through Republic Act 7966, expired on Monday, May 4.
“The Radio Control Law Act No. 3846, as amended, provides that ‘no person, firm, company association, or corporation shall construct install, establish, or operate a radio transmitting station or a radio receiving station used for commercial purposes or a radio broadcasting station, without having first obtained a franchise therefor from the Congress of the Philippines,” the NTC said.
It added that ABS-CBN “ no longer has valid subsisting congressional franchise as required by Act No. 3846”
The telecommunications body’s regional offices shall implement the closure order in the respective areas of jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, the hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal will be scheduled “at the earliest time after the enhanced community quarantine is lifted by the government.”
Attack vs the press?
The hashtag #NotoABSCBNshutdown trended anew on local Twitter following the NTC’s announcement some Filipinos expressed support to the network amid its uncertain fate.
Around 11,000 workers are expected to be affected by the looming network closure.
Some Filipinos described the NTC’s move as an “attack on the press” especially since the closure order came amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The cease-and-desist order was also released two days after the World Press Freedom Day.
“They really chose to do this in the middle of a pandemic???? Sobrang unfair neto sa mga journalist, reporters and other media personnel who works hard to serve the people during this crisis???” a Twitter user said.
“Not just because of being a former campus journalist but as citizen of this country, this administration, particularly NTC made a wrong move today,” a campus journalist also said.
Some journalists and citizens also expressed support to the network by using the hashtag #IStandWithABSCBN and #DefendPressFreedom
The NTC order is an abomination. Legislative tradition, actual practice & DOJ opinion all allow a network to continue operating while franchise renewal is pending in Congress; this order violates the spirit of both law and Constitution.
— John Nery (@jnery_newsstand) May 5, 2020
This is offensive to all journalists, risking their lives to inform the public, even the government, of what is happening to its people.
— Rambo Talabong (@ramboreports) May 5, 2020
— Nada Mass Testing (@marvintomandao) May 5, 2020
The National Union of Journalist of the Philippines announced that it would hold a “candle lighting” online rally on Tuesday evening.
“We also encourage everyone to join the candle lighting and post on their social media using the hashtag #NoToABSCBNShutDown,” it said.
[Online Rally] #NoToABSCBNShutdown
May 5, 2020
Candle Lighting at 6pm
— NUJP (@nujp) May 5, 2020
What the gov’t said
On Monday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the decision to allow ABS-CBN to operate is up to the NTC. He added that President Rodrigo Duterte will go with the NTC’s decision.
Roque made the statement after Solicitor General Jose Calida issued a warning to NTC officials that they may face graft charges should they grant the long-running company this authority.
On Tuesday afternoon, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the NTC sought for the justice department’s opinion.
“The DOJ gave them an advice in accordance with law & equity,” Guevarra said in a press statement.
“It must have a very good reason for doing so. Let’s wait for its explanation,” he also said.