House Minority Leader Benny Abante Jr. called on Congress to abolish the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and transfer its powers to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Abante made the call following the NTC’s issuance of a cease and desist order directing media network ABS-CBN to cease operations immediately despite its commitment to Congress to issue a provisional authority so the network could continue operations after its franchise expired on May 4.

“The NTC should be abolished and its functions and powers be transferred to the DICT where it can be better exercised and hopefully be more responsive to the needs of our changing times,” the veteran legislator said in a privilege speech.

“NTC’s act on ABS-CBN is a slap in the face of Congress and an outright act of defiance.”

The seasoned lawmaker described the latest act of the NTC as a “slap in the face of Congress and an outright act of defiance.”

He noted that the House Committee on Legislative Franchises has enjoined the NTC to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to continue its operations effective May 4, 2020, until such time that the Congress has made a decision on the network’s application.

Abante said the Senate also passed a resolution calling on the NTC to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN.

“NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told the House Committee on Legislative Franchises on March 10––under oath––that the NTC will issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN,” he recalled.

“Contrary to its previous pronouncements, the NTC issued a cease-and-desist order directing ABS-CBN to cease operations immediately,” Abante stressed.

He also raised several issues regarding the performance of the agency mandated to regulate the telecommunications industry.

Abante pointed out the agency’s failure to sanction telcos for poor services and said the violations of NTC regulations are supposed to be dealt with by suspension, if not cancelation of a license to operate.

He also blamed the agency for its inability to encourage telcos players to enter the Philippine market, requiring the intervention of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Its failure all these years to invoke sanctions against the companies poorly serving the people’s telecommunications needs is a perfect reason to abolish it already,” Abante said.

Solicitor General Jose Calida defended the NTC’s action to issue a cease-and-desist order against the network after its legislative franchise expired on May 4.

“There is a judicial precedent on this power of the NTC. In a 2003 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the issuance by the NTC of both a recall order and a cease-and-desist order against a broadcasting entity when it failed to renew its franchise was valid and compliant to administrative due process,” Calida added.

Calida noted that the exercise by the NTC of its regulatory power is in compliance with the rule of law.

“Nobody is sacred.”

“Nobody is sacred. Even a powerful and influential corporation must follow the law,” Calida said.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) earlier cautioned NTC against granting provisional authorities to operate broadcasting services, to ABS-CBN Corporation and its affiliate, ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc., despite the absence of franchises from Congress.

“The OSG has the duty to advise the NTC of what is legal or not. We will be abdicating our duty to the NTC if we don’t advise them of the legal consequences of their actions,” he said.

The Constitution requires a prior franchise from Congress before a broadcasting entity can operate in the country.

Without a renewal, the franchise expires by operation of law. The franchise ceases to exist and the entity can no longer continue its operations as a public utility.

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