House majority should have expressed clear intent to NTC over ABS-CBN franchise: ex-chief justice

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MANILA – The majority of the House of Representatives should have expressed its order for the National Telecommunications Commission to allow ABS-CBN to operate beyond the expiration of its franchise, retired chief justice Reynato Puno said Monday.

In February, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises asked the NTC to issue provisional authority to ABS-CBN for its continued operations as lawmakers deliberated on the renewal of its franchise.

Puno, however, said this should have been passed by the "majority" of the House.

"Mas mawawala 'yung pag-aalinlangan kung 'yung sentiment whether expressed by resolution or what not ay expresses the sentiment of the majority of the House," he told ANC.

"Kung may malinaw na kautusan at 'yung kautusan ay alinsunod sa proseso ay dapat sumunod ang NTC. Ang kinekwestiyon nila ay hindi pwede na ang nagbigay ng kautusan ay 'yung committee. Dapat 'yung kautusan ay kautusan ng majority ng members of the House."

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, however, pinned the blame on NTC and said it "succumbed to pressure" from the Solicitor General when it forced ABS-CBN off the air last week over its stalled franchise renewal.

Puno said the House committee should not apply "ordinary standard" in granting broadcasting firms a license to operate as "freedom of the press is at stake."

"'Yang freedom of the press ay isang preferred value in our hierarchy of values sa Constitution natin. Importante 'yan sa demokrasya natin," he said.

"Dapat tingnan din ng Kongreso 'yang factor na 'yan, na kapag ang isang franchisee ay involved sa broadcasting, ano 'yung standard na dapat gamitin. Sa pananaw ko, hindi dapat gamitin 'yung ordinary standard."

Puno earlier said the NTC should have asked ABS-CBN first to explain in writing why it should not issue a cease-and-desist order against the network.

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