DOJ won’t issue legal opinion over ABS-CBN franchise renewal – Guevarra

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday bared that the Department of Justice will not issue a legal opinion as requested by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on whether ABS-CBN can be allowed to operate once its franchise expires next month.

Guevarra said the DOJ could not issue a legal opinion because a private company is involved.

“Sa totoo, hindi kami magbibigay ng legal opinion sa National Telecommunications Commission. ”

“Unang-una kasi ang legal opinions ng DOJ ay sino-solicit lamang ng mga national government agencies in connection with their official work.”

“Pero pagka merong private individual or private company or private interest na involve like ABS-CBN, hindi kami makapagbibgay ng opinion because our legal opinion will not be binding on a private company who may actually go to court to have the matter resolved. That’s one reason kung bakit kami magde-decline,” Guevarra told reporters after the Senate public services committee hearing on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.

Earlier, Guevarra said Congress should authorize the NTC to issue a provisional authority allowing television giant ABS-CBN to continue to operate even without a franchise.

“Considerations of equity have apparently been applied in previous similar situations presented earlier, namely, among others, PT&T, Smart Communications Inc., CBCP Inc., all of whom were allowed to operate despite expired franchises as long as application for the renewal of their franchises were lodged with the Congress before the lapse of their term. ”

“The grant of a franchise is an exercise of sovereign power and under our Constitution, that power is vested in the Congress. By necessary implication, such power of Congress also includes the power to prescribe the rights of a franchisee applicant pending final determination of the renewal of its franchise by the Congress. ”

“It is, therefore, respectfully submitted that the Congress, by a concurrent resolution, may authorize the NTC to issue a provisional authority subject to such terms and conditions as the NTC may deem fit to ABS-CBN and other entities similarly situated, authorizing them to continue operating subject to Congress’ eventual disposition of their renewal of the application,” Guevarra said.

The ABS-CBN franchise is set to expire this March, and bills are pending before the Senate and House of Representatives to have this extended.

On numerous occasions, President Duterte threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, accusing the network of biased reporting and riling against its failure to air his political advertisement during the 2016 campaign.

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