THE Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes approved in principle on Wednesday a measure allowing franchises with pending renewal applications in Congress to continue operating past the franchise expiration date.

The committee was tackling Senate Bill No. 1530, which seeks to address contingencies like the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) decision to issue a cease-and-desist order against ABS-CBN after its franchise expired on May 4.

The NTC said Wednesday that it filed the cease and desist order in light of the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, and that it has no authority to grant a provisional franchise.

“We never issued a provisional license to any broadcaster while their franchise was pending in Congress. What happened is we just allowed them to continue operating,” NTC Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba said.

“The difference with ABS-CBN (is that) the case for quo warranto was filed by the Solicitor General, kaya naging untenable (which is why it became untenable) on our part to let it continue.”

Senator Franklin M. Drilon said the bill will address inconsistencies on the part of the NTC in implementing the law.

“This representation sees the very clear inconsistency in the manner in which NTC has applied its power or authority to issue a cease and desist order,” he said.

“There were no cease and desist orders issued to various franchises which expired while their applications were in Congress,” he said.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio said the NTC’s actions constitute “unequal protection” under the law, which the proposed bill will address.

He also recommended that the panel provide retroactive effectivity to ensure the measure addresses the ABS-CBN case, once enacted.

The bill seeks to amend the Revised Administrative code by expanding the coverage of the provision granting the non-expiration of licenses to include franchises.

Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, who chairs the panel, has terminated hearings on the bill, which it plans to “report out by next week.”

Congress has until June 3 to act on remaining legislative measures before it goes on break until July 27. — Charmaine A. Tadalan