Several lawmakers and various sectors are calling for the abolition of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
For their part, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Win Gatchalian instead want to fire the NTC commissioners over the shutdown of ABS-CBN network.
Drilon said the NTC commissioners should be removed from the service for incompetence.
Drilon said they should be dismissed for grave abuse of discretion causing damage to society by depriving people of a major source of information on the pandemic, and causing the loss of jobs of 11,000 workers of giant network.
“The commissioners also displayed gross and inexcusable ignorance of the law when they disregarded precedents and the opinion of the Department of Justice,” said Drilon.
Drilon, who served as DOJ secretary, said there is total loss of confidence on their ability to discharge their duties according to law after they reneged on their commitment to Congress.
During separate hearings in both Houses of Congress, NTC commissioners guaranteed to grant provisional authority to ABS-CBN to continue their operation while Congress is yet to act on their pending franchise bill.
Gatchalian said they will have to study carefully calls to abolish NTC because it has other jobs like regulating telecommunications companies.
“I think the problem is not within the NTC but the problem is with the persons in NTC, the decision makers. We will have to look at the persons instead of the organization,” pointed out Gatchalian.
Gatchalian recalled that during a Senate hearing, they were assured by the NTC Chairman that a provisional authority can be given to ABS-CBN considering that conditional authority has been given many, many times.
“This was not given only to big networks but even small networks are given provisional authority,” he said.
Sometimes, Gatchalian said, Congress takes a while to approve franchises and it’s unfair for existing operators to just completely shut down so the remedy for that is NTC issues provisional authorities. Once the franchise has been given out, it will take over legally.
“So in other words, the provisional authority has been given out many times in the past. As for me, I don’t see any reason why a provisional authority cannot be given at this time. The assurance given to us both in the House and the Senate was totally broken, that’s why a lot of us were quite surprised,” said Gatchalian.
Conceding the defense of NTC in giving out the cease and desist order (CDO) was correct, Gatchalian insisted on the principle of equity as cited by DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
“This means that, if you are operating and many people are dependent on you, 11,000, in fact, of ABS employees are hinged on this franchise, NTC is given the authority, being a quasi-judicial body to issue a provisional authority,” he said.
“They have the power to do that because of many things. Number one is employment, number two is operations, and number three, the whole industry will actually be affected if the ABS will completely cease operations.,” explained the senator.
He also believes the shutdown was ill-timed since the country is in a middle of a global health crisis.
“Timing is also very important. In this case, the flow of information is very important. ABS-CBN commands a whopping 80% of the market. It is virtually in the homes of every Filipino and information flow right now is very important. We see IATF, DOH giving regular briefings so that people will understand what’s happening. People will be guided on what’s happening and we need every single medium to give information to people. With all that understanding in mind, this merits to NTC to give a provisional authority. This is provisional so it can be revoked at any given time given the circumstances,” he also explained.
Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe said the Filipino people want to see the network back on air. “To see is to believe.”
She said the Senate will not waste a moment once the bill reaches the Chamber, as this matter is imbued with public interest./Stacy Ang