Grant of temporary franchise to ABS-CBN is unconstitutional, 'The bill should be generic, applicable to all broadcast companies' - Carpio

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Former Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned senators against approving a bill granting a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN Corp. until 30 June 2022.

However, the provisional franchise would allow ABS-CBN to return on-air on free TV and radio, Carpio said, this would hit discrimination against other franchises in the same situation.

“The senators are correct in proposing a bill to allow ABS-CBN to continue its broadcast operations. However, the senators will be committing the very same constitutional error they want to remedy if they limit the bill to ABS-CBN." Carpio said in his Inquirer column.

"If enacted into law, the bill will deny equal protection of the law to other franchisees whose franchises will expire while Congress deliberates on their renewal. Ironically, there will be discrimination in favor of ABS-CBN,” he said.

“To cure this infirmity, the bill should be generic, applicable to all broadcast and telecommunication franchisees similarly situated, and retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020, covering the present and future Congresses,” Carpio added.

The former chief justice said the National Telecommunications (NTC) “discriminate unfairly” against ABS-CBN when it issued a cease and desist order against the Kapamilya network on May 5, a day after its franchise expired.

Carpio pointed out that this is the first time the NTC has ordered a broadcast company to go off the air after it allowed other companies to continue broadcasting, such as Vanguard Radio Network (VRN), Catholic Media Network (CMN) and Isla Communications despite having an expired franchise.

In the past, broadcast and telecommunications companies were never issued CDOs even if their franchises expired while pending renewal in Congress. 

NTC always allowed Congress to deliberate on the franchise renewal until the end of the term of Congress. 

“Any extension of the term of a broadcast or telecommunications franchise must be embodied in a law. Without a franchise embodied in a law, a broadcast or telecommunications company cannot operate and cannot be issued any authority by the NTC. This was the ruling of the Supreme court in the 2003 case of Associated Communications v. NTC,” Carpio explained.

“Absent the intervention of the Supreme Court, only a general law allowing ABS-CBN to continue broadcasting can prevent its radio and TV stations from being silenced until the end of the term of President Duterte,” he added.

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