The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) served a cease-and-desist order (CDO) to hundreds of mostly provincial broadcast firms and telecom providers whose franchises to operate have expired and are now pending approval at the House of Representatives.     

In the past, NTC issued provisional authorities to these companies while Congress deliberated on their franchises.  But in the latest CDOs, NTC cited a Supreme Court ruling providing that those without franchises cannot operate.  

The SC ruling was an offshoot of the ABS-CBN Network case, in which Solicitor General Jose Calida ordered NTC to issue ABS-CBN a CDO because of its expired franchise. 

This bothered Sen. Grace Poe, chair of Senate committee on Public Services, as she expects thousands to lose their jobs, much like ABS-CBN when it was shuttered. 

Poe said the CDOs looming over telecommunications and broadcast companies awaiting renewal of franchises would mean job losses likely to ensue from the regulators’ shutting down operations of telcos and broadcast firms pending the renewal of their franchise to operate.

“We do not like people losing jobs especially at a time like this,” says Poe, as she presided over a hearing of the Senate committee on Public Services, adding: “We can just imagine the enormous challenge of having to keep a company afloat when it cannot operate.”

Poe noted that the NTC was compelled to issue the CDOs to companies with expired franchises since the Supreme Court ruled that those without franchises cannot operate. The SC decision, she added, stemmed from the ABS-CBN case, with the Office of the Solicitor General ordering the NTC to issue the Lopez company a CDO because of its expired franchise.

Still, the Senator stressed that in the past, the NTC issued provisional authorities to companies while Congress deliberated on their franchises. “This is really alarming. Because of that decision, a lot now are affected. Many lost and stand to lose their jobs,” said Poe.

In a statement, Poe recalled that “according to the NTC, it supports Senate Bill number 1530 authored by Senate Minority Leader  Franklin Drilon seeking to clarify that an inaction or indecision on a franchise application is not necessarily interpreted as a denial.”

At the same time, Poe and Drilon asserted that in the case of pending franchise applications, the fault does not lie with applicants who have complied with the requirements, nor Congress with its long list of pressing agenda. 

According to the NTC, it supports Senate Bill 1530, authored by Senator Drilon, which seeks to clarify that an inaction or indecision on a franchise application is not necessarily interpreted as a denial. 

But pending approval of that bill by Congress, NTC said it goes by the Supreme Court decision regarding the ABS-CBN case. 

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