By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter
THE Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the petition of ABS-CBN Corp. for a temporary restraining order against the cease-and-desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against the network, forcing it to stop airing after its legislative franchise expired.
The court ordered the telecommunications regulator to comment on the petition of ABS-CBN for TRO and or preliminary injunction against its order in 10 days upon receipt of notice, SC Public Information Office Chief Brian Keith F. Hosaka said.
The SC also impleaded the Senate and the House of Representatives as parties to the case, requiring them to comment as well within 10 days.
“The Respondent NTC was also required to file a reply within a non-extendible period of 5 calendar days from personal notice of the said comments of the Senate and House of Representatives,” Mr. Hosaka told reporters in a Viber message.
ABS-CBN on Monday urged the court to immediately act on its petition filed on May 7, noting that it will take weeks or months before the Congress passes the measure of the lower house to grant it provisional authority to operate until October 2020.
The network also reiterated that the prolonged shutdown would affect the livelihood of its 11,000 employees and would mean less tax for the government as it has paid between P70.5 billion between 2003 and 2020.
ABS-CBN said in its petition that it would lose up to P35 million daily when it is off-air.
Mr. Hosaka said the court also denied the petition of lawyer Lorenzo G. Gadon to have his case consolidated after he asked the court to stop the NTC from issuing a provisional authority to ABS-CBN after its franchise expired.
The NTC issued the order on May 5 after the franchise of ABS-CBN , which renewal is pending before the Congress, expired on May 4.
This is contradictory to what the commission said before a Senate hearing in March that it would issue the provisional authority when the franchise expires.
Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said in March that the Congress may pass a concurrent resolution authorizing NTC to issue the provisional authority pending the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.
The House of Representatives sent a letter to the NTC while the Senate passed a resolution asking the commission to allow ABS-CBN to operate through the issuance of the authority.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said it did not meddle with the Congress’ actions on the franchise of ABS-CBN when it advised the NTC in April not to grant the company a provisional authority.
It said that it was not opposing the Congress when it advised the NTC of its possible encroachment on legislative power if it issues the provisional authority without a law allowing it.
“Warning or cautioning a client is not threatening,” it said. “He (Solicitor General Jose C. Calida) never mentioned the name of Speaker Cayetano and any congressman in his advisory letter to NTC and subsequent press release.”
It also said that the letter it sent to the NTC on May 3 “merely formalized the legal advice verbally given to NTC officials before that date regarding the expiration of the media firm’s franchise.”
“Actually, the Solicitor General acted with circumspection because voicing out his concerns to Congress without being requested by it would have constituted meddling in its affairs, apart from the fact that the issues he is raising are sub judice,” it said, noting that the OSG filed a quo warranto petition to the SC for cancellation of ABS-CBN and its unit ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc.’s legislative franchises.
The OSG also said that it is the statutory counsel of NTC which belongs to the executive branch and there is no rule to notify a different branch of government of an internal communication.
It also said that it agrees with House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano that alleged violations of ABS-CBN should be investigated.
The solicitor general also declined to attend the Senate hearing on May 19 because of the pending quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court.
In the quo warranto petition filed in February, the OSG cited the alleged “highly abusive practices” of ABS-CBN, citing the operation of a pay-per-view channel without NTC approval, and violation of foreign ownership restrictions, among others.