By Genshen L. Espedido, Reporter
THE National Telecommunications Commision (NTC) committed to the House of Representatives that it would order ABS-CBN Corp. to stop airing programs through digital television receivers or digiboxes.
During the joint hearing of the House Committees on Legislative Franchises, and Good Government and Public Accountability on Monday, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba said that ABS-CBN’s airing through digiboxes is part of the cease-and-desist order issued by the agency on May 5.
“Iyong pag-ere ng ABS-CBN ng digital TV sa Channel 43 ay kasama sa cease-and-desist order dahil ang franchise na ginamit nila for digital broadcasting ay ‘yung ABS-CBN,” he said, referring to the media network’s franchise that expired on May 4.
(ABS-CBN’s airing of digital TV on Channel 43 is part of the cease-and-desist order because the franchise used for digital broadcasting is that of ABS-CBN.)
To clarify, Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Michael T. Defensor asked, “Kaya ang ibig mong sabihin, nu’ng ‘nag cease-and-desist ka, ‘yung frequency na ‘yan, kahit anong program na nandiyan, dapat huminto. At ang commitment mo ngayong hapon, ihihinto mo lahat ng programa?”
(What you’re saying is when you issued the cease-and-desist order, whatever program is in that frequency should stop. And your commitment this afternoon is to stop all programs?)
In response, Mr. Cordoba replied, “Yes, your honor.”
The digibox transmits channels exclusively airing cartoons, music videos, movies, Asian dramas and reruns of ABS-CBN programs, as well as a pay-per-view service called Kapamilya Box Office (KBO).
Mr. Cordoba said the NTC had received guidance from the Office of the Solicitor General that the agency must issue an alias cease-and-desist order against the continued broadcast of ABS-CBN programs through the digibox.
“Ang advice po ng SolGen (Solicitor General) is for us to issue an alias cease-and-desist order reiterating po ‘yung aming naunang cease-and-desist,” he said.
(The SolGen’s advice is for us to issue an alias cease-and-desist order reiterating our previous cease-and-desist [order].)
ABS-CBN Chief Executive Officer and President Carlo Joaquin Tadeo L. Katigbak said that the network is willing to submit to the judgment of the NTC.
“Of course, we are willing to submit our judgment to the regulatory agency. ‘Yung hinihingi lang po namin (What we’re just asking for) is to make sure we are given due process so we have the right venue to express our position on this matter. And then whatever decision the NTC comes up with, we will respect the regulatory agency po,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cavite Representative Jesus Crispin C. Remulla said there is a “ripe” Ombudsman case against Mr. Cordoba for allowing ABS-CBN to operate through digibox eight weeks after its franchise expired.
“Mr. Chairman, I believe that we found a ground for this committee to file a case with the Ombudsman against Commissioner Cordoba because he has willfully disobeyed the power of Congress to issue franchises and allowing an entity to operate without a franchise and earn money at the same time,” he said.
Bulacan Rep. and Chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability Jose Antonio R. Sy-Alvarado said that the committee had taken note of Mr. Remulla’s remark, adding that the panels will take up the matter in the succeeding hearings.
To aid their decision in granting a new franchise to ABS-CBN, the two panels were discussing whether the media network committed a violation when it continued to air programs through digibox. The committees will convene again on Tuesday.