Stop shutdown immediately –ABS-CBN urges Supreme Court

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Broadcast network ABS-CBN Corp on Monday urged the Supreme Court to immediately act on its motion to resume its broadcast operation to stop millions of pesos in revenue loss and protect the jobs of about 11,000 workers.

ABS-CBN said it had lost P30 to P35 million in advertising revenues daily since the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order last May 5 over its stalled franchise renewal in Congress.

“If this severe financial hemorrhage is not stopped, ABS-CBN may be constrained to eventually let go of workers, reduce salaries and benefits, and substantially cut down on costs and expenses,” ABS-CBN said in a motion filed before the Supreme Court.

On May 7, ABS-CBN filed a petition for the high court to stop the NTC’s cease and desist order.

The Supreme Court will tackle the petition on Tuesday, May 19.
In its motion, ABS-CBN said the Court had granted temporary restraining orders (TRO) in the past where it found irreparable damage which could lead to tremendous loss or even closure of a business and where there is no assurance that a company can recover from the losses.

It also cited public interest as a ground for the issuance of the TRO or a writ of preliminary injunction, noting that ABS-CBN employed 11,000 workers throughout its various subsidiaries and affiliates.

Its shutdown, its lawyers argued, also affects third parties like talents, content creators, security guards, canteen helpers, drivers, utility personnel, even the multibillion-peso advertising industry which spends 75 percent of its P151-billion business into television.

ABS-CBN also invoked its contributions to Philippine society: P70.5 billion in taxes paid from 2003 to 2020; providing needed information to 99 percent of households in the Philippine, 70% of whom tuned in to ABS-CBN in 2019.

“With ABS-CBN’s unparalleled reach, it is imperative that ABS-CBN be on air to give timely and reliable information to the public, especially in light of the current public health emergency and the natural calamities that regularly threaten the country, such as typhoons, earthquakes and floods,” it said.

ABS-CBN said it has raised P237 million to fund response to the coronavirus pandemic but fund raising efforts have been curtailed by the CDO.

ABS-CBN shares fell by 9.6 percent as it resumed trading on Monday, down to P15.82 per share from P17.50 on May 5 when the CDO was served. Analysts predict it could go as low as P12.25 per share.

While the network acknowledged efforts in Congress to pass a provisional franchise to allow it to operate until October 31 this year, it said it would still take time before House Bill No. 6732 is passed into law and it will still go through approval in the Senate and by the President as well as publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.

“Moreover, ABS-CBN will, thereafter, have to seek and obtain from the NTC the necessary permits to operate. This may take some week, if not months,” it said.

“In the meantime, ABS-CBN, its employees, various stakeholders, and the general public will continue to suffer grave and irreparable injury as a result of the Cease and Desist Order issued by the NTC.”

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez had said he would ask House leaders on Monday to recall the approval of the bill on second reading to prevent questions on its constitutionality.

Rodriguez also said he wanted to amend a provision that required ABS-CBN to allot 10 percent of its advertisement airtime to “public service time for the judiciary, for the executive, for the legislature, for the constitutional commission.”/Stacy Ang

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