Press Release
May 8, 2020

One News PH Agenda interview of Senator Win Gatchalian with Cito Beltran on the ABS-CBN franchise and MSMEs

[start recording]

Q: What are your thoughts on the [cease and desist order issued by NTC against ABS-CBN]?

SEN WIN: In the same manner, we had hearing in the Senate and the same statements were heard from NTC Chairman and we were assured by him that a provisional authority can be given considering that conditional authority has been given many, many times. Hindi lang ito sa big networks kundi even small networks are given provisional authority. This is because of timing issues. Sometimes, Congress takes a while to approve franchises and it's unfair for existing operators to just completely shutdown so the remedy for that is NTC issues provisional authorities and once the franchise has been given out, the franchise will take over legally. So in other words, the provisional authority has been given out many times in the past so for me, I don't see any reason why a provisional authority cannot be given at this time. Yung assurance na binigay sa amin both in the House and the Senate ay totally nasira that's why a lot of us were quite surprised.

Q: Ang depensa ng NTC ay wala na silang franchise eh, wala na tayong pag-uusapan. Trabaho namin na sabihan silang wag na wag kayong mag-eere kasi wala kayong franchise. Illegal yan.

SEN WIN: Correct. That was a question raised during the Senate hearing and DOJ Secretary Guevarra gave a statement that the principle of equity, meaning kung nag-ooperate ka na at maraming mga tao ang nakasalalay, 11,000 in fact of ABS employees are hinged on this franchise. The NTC is given the authority being a quasi-judicial body to issue a provisional authority. They have the power to do that because of many things. Number one is employment, number two is operations and number three, the whole industry will actually be affected if the ABS will completely cease operations.

Q: Not to mention that we are in a middle of a global health crisis.

SEN WIN: Correct. Timing is also very important. In this case, the flow of information is very important. ABS-CBN commands a whopping 80% of the market. It is virtually in the homes of every Filipino and information flow right now is very important. We see IATF, DOH giving regular briefings so that people will understand what's happening. People will be guided on what's happening and we need every single medium to give information to people. With all that understanding in mind, this merits to NTC to give a provisional authority. This is provisional so it can be revoked at any given time given the circumstances.

Q: During the hearings in the Senate and in Congress, tumatayo kayong guarantor. Some of your associates were standing in as guarantors that the franchise will be given to ABS. Thank you for explaining the principle of equity. Many of us don't understand that principle of equity. We keep thinking of NTC as a bureau, but they are a quasi-judicial body and therefore, they are independent of anybody including the Office of the Solicitor General.

SEN WIN: Correct and the NTC itself is a regulator and it can make decisions, they can actually punish those industries that it regulates. But they are guided with a lot of jurisprudence, a lot of things that they have done in the past. From my observation and research, provisional authority is nothing new. It's been given to many tv and radio stations especially those ones that deliver important public service to their locality. So looking at all of this-pandemic happening, information flowing to our homes, ABS employees, NTC can come up with the logic that a provisional authority is needed for it to continue to operate because without it, much graver situation can happen.

Q: The second issue, the NTC Commissioner Cordoba, he stood before Congress and the Senate and made a verbal commitment ba yun? Or because he was in the Senate, he took an oath to state the truth and nothing but the truth. Therefore, anything said there had the power of a contract? Did he make a commitment to issue actual provisional authority?

SEN WIN: Correct. I was there at the hearing. In fact, he asked the DOJ. I remember him saying na oh before we can decide, we have to get the legal opinion from DOJ. The DOJ Secretary was there, and he made a categorical statement that the principle of authority will prevail in this type of circumstance meaning, kung nag-ooperate ka na at maraming nakasalalay dito, this can be a justification and an argument for you to issue a provisional authority and he was relieved. I remember that eh. Hindi ko makalimutan because that was the point of contention at that time. He was relieved ang sabi niya, oh andito na pala ang DOJ, meron nang justification, therefore, we can issue a provisional authority. That statement is a very important statement because that guided us the Senators and also Congress in terms of how to approach this franchise and what process will we have to take in order to approve that franchise. Of course, we respect each other's process. But that statement guided the base and the process then all of a sudden, iba pala ang gagawin mo? So binigyan mo kami ng isang statement na sinundan namin as a guide pero iba pala ang nangyari. That's why we are quite surprised and it can be a justification for contempt because at that point in time, he gave us a statement that we held and we used to guide us in our decision-making.

Q: You pointed out that they are a quasi-judicial body, why did they even have to ask the DOJ for an opinion? Sabi ng DOJ advice lang ang binigay namin dahil hindi kami pwedeng magbigay ng opinion.

SEN WIN: Well, it became a habit in the government kung hindi ka sigurado legally, hingi ka ng opinion sa DOJ, sa OSG, sa OP. I've seen that many times, kung may isang agency o Secretary na hindi sila sigurado, hingi ka ng legal cover sa ibang agency. It's a practice that been happening in government but it's something that gives legal cover to NTC. In fact, they were given legal cover at that time.

Q: Going back to the issue of NTC doing the flip-flop, Senator Sonny Angara basically suggested that in between the time Cordoba gave the assurance to the Senate to give a provisional authority to ABS until the time of May 5 when NTC issued a cease and desist order, someone must have spoken to the NTC to decide otherwise and we all know that the Solicitor General made a threat that if the NTC issues a provisional authority, magkakaso sila against NTC. Is that fair? Hindi ba yun matatawag na intimidation, grave threat or abuse of authority of the part of the SolGen because while he may have brought the case to the supreme court wala siyang pakielam sa trabaho ng NTC, nakikielam siya?

SEN WIN: I think the best decision NTC should have made is what is best for the country at this time we all need information. Kanina I just tweeted, Cito magkaedad tayo, ever since nagkamulat ako DZMM na nasa kotse namin, ngayon wala nang DZMM and I remember ever since TV Patrol or News at Night na yung pinapanood namin. The flow of information right now in light of what is happening in our country is very important. At the same time we have 11,000 employees would be out of their jobs. So I think the most important decision the NTC should have made is to take moral high ground, think of what's good for the country not what's good for me because what's happening right now, bahala na yung bansa basta ako hindi ako mahabla. Binigyan naman sila ng legal cover ng DOJ so it's really disappointing that they took a very selfish decision by protecting themselves first. Bahala na 11,000, bahala na yung bansa natin basta ako hindi ako mahahabla at hindi ako malalagay sa alanganin.

Q: Last question on this subject, the little I know about speaker Allan Peter Cayetano bagama't Christian siya medyo in fairness to the speaker he took a beating on this one and he said there will be a day of reckoning. Congressman Benny Abante has already proposed the abolition of the NTC and let the DICT handle it etcetera what are the sentiments of your colleagues in the Senate?

SEN WIN: We know that Speaker Allan is a very meticulous person and he is a very experienced public servant, matagal na siyang naglilingkod sa atin and his style is to approach things very meticulously and he scrutinizes things closely and that's why he wants to scrutinize ABS and that's their prerogative. In fact, that's the job of Congress and the Senate, to scrutinize bills very closely. Having said that, that's why during their first hearing and also in the Senate we asked point black NTC and DOJ if the time comes that a franchise will not be issued what are the remedies? Provisional authority was in order that time. That's why nagulat kami nangyari ito especially at this time. We have a pandemic in our midst, we need a flow of information as much as possible and I was caught off guard and many of our colleagues we're caught off guard.

Q: So are you guys going to support the abolition of the NTC?

SEN WIN: We will have to study this carefully because NTC has other jobs also for example regulating telecom. I think the problem is not within the NTC but the problem is with the persons in NTC, the decision makers. We will have to look at the persons instead of the organization.

Q: Other topics, the principal reason why I reached out to you because I had many calls and expression of concern. From people who bought cars for TNVS, who bought property, who put up businesses and well pag nanonood sila ng TV, they watch international and they hear of government bail outs abroad, bail outs for small businesses etcetera while they feel that who are we going to go to because we don't have business, we don't have income and now they are faced with a choice, kaya pa naman yung one month. Most business owners are simply giving out the 13th month pay to help out their employees. But now after one month we're now on day 50 something they are confronted by a choice, we continue to give out of our own pockets, salaries for people who have no jobs for companies that have no business? or do we simply say goodbye and say kanya-kanya na tayo, you are on your own, I also need to think about my family. What's happening, is anyone even addressing this or is someone in-charge as far as this is concerned?


SEN WIN: Well Cito from my existence in this planet we are facing one of the most difficult challenges our country has ever faced, not only our country but the entire world. Now the world is interconnected via transportation, via internet more than one country affects the other. This crisis is so deep that it creates a lot of uncertainty in the minds of our people and that uncertainty is very unsettling for many us. Di to katulad ng bagyo o sunog at least you know after ng bagyo at sunog you can rebuild. This pandemic, even after lockdown, there is still uncertainty. Ano ba ang mangyayari satin? Magkakaroon ba ng second wave? Do we find a vaccine that will magically eliminate the virus? Do we find a medicine that can reduce the time of recoveries. Marami pang uncertainties and these uncertainties create sleepless nights especially to our entrepreneurs. I want to focus on our MSMEs because they are the ones being battered right now, left and right. Two difficult things that our entrepreneurs are facing. Number one, liquidity, may pera ba ko na nakatabi so that kung mag G-GCQ na tayo tatanggalin na natin yung lockdown I have money to buy for working capital, I have money to pay for my bills and restart my business. Number two, our employees a lot of our businessmen their priority is their employees but of course may hangganan rin sila, they cannot sustain this for a long time. I really salute our entrepreneurs I know a lot of entrepreneurs right now from medium and small enterprises even though they are now dipping into their personal savings they are making sure that their employees are getting some form of salary some form of help.

[end recording]

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