By Arjay L. Balinbin

NATIONAL Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Deputy Commissioner Edgardo V. Cabarios said the lesson the Commission learned from dealing with the franchise issue of ABS-CBN Corp. is that the Act No. 3846 or the Radio Control Law that it cited in its cease-and-desist order against the broadcaster needs to be updated to allow operations pending the franchise renewal process.

The Radio Control Law empowers the NTC to control the allocation of spectrum.

Baka pwede nang i-amend (It might be time to amend it). It has been a law even before we became a republic. 1931 pa kasi ‘yan. Batas na ‘yan even before the Commonwealth (It’s been a law even before we became a republic. It’s been on the books since 1931, predating the Commonwealth),” Mr. Cabarios told BusinessWorld in a phone interview Wednesday.

He added: “It is an antiquated law, so maraming provisions doon na kailangan nang i-amend. Kasi una nakalagay doon lahat ng nag-o-operate ng radio stations, maski na walkie-talkie mo lang, maski na cellphone mo lang, kailangan may permit ka, it’s impractical (Many provisions could be amended. It states that all radio stations, even handheld two-way radios or even cell phones need a permit. It’s impractical)” he said.

The NTC issued a cease-and-desist order against the media company on Tuesday citing Act No. 3846, which states that “no person, firm, company, association, or corporation shall construct, install, establish, or operate a radio transmitting station, or a radio receiving station used for commercial purposes, or a radio broadcasting station, without having first obtained a franchise therefor from the Congress of the Philippines.”

Mr. Cabarios said the provision should be updated to allow a broadcasting company to continue operations while awaiting the renewal of its franchise.

Pwede naman siguro maglagay ng provision doon na while the application for renewal of the franchise is pending, considered valid pa rin ang franchise, kasi ngayon wala ‘yan. Kung expired, ay expired talaga (It might be possible to allow operations while renewal applications are pending — under which conditions the old franchise id deemed still valid. Right now that’s not possible. If it’s expired, there is no recourse),” Mr. Cabarios added.

He said there is no provision in the old law that authorizes the Commission to issue a provisional authority to a broadcasting company which is still awaiting the renewal of its franchise.

Kasi our issuance of any kind of authority, provisional or permanent, is always predicated on a valid franchise. Without a valid franchise we cannot issue anything,” Mr. Cabarios said.

He noted that there have been discussions to amend the old law.

Pero ngayon baka naman mapabilis na (Things might be expedited now),” he added.

The NTC gave ABS-CBN 10 days from the receipt of its order to explain why the frequencies assigned to it “should not be recalled for lack of the necessary Congressional Franchise as required by law.”

Ordered closed are five AM radio stations, which include DZMM-AM in Obando, Bulacan; 18 FM radio stations; 42 TV stations; and 10 DTTB stations.

ABS-CBN said its cable news channel ANC, online websites and video streaming service iWant are not affected by the order.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has threatened to block the renewal of the ABS-CBN legislative franchise after a dispute during the 2016 campaign over the airing of his political ads.

In a statement, ABS-CBN said: “We trust that the government will decide on our franchise with the best interest of the Filipino people in mind, recognizing ABS-CBN’s role and efforts in providing the latest news and information during these challenging times.”