Manila, May 5 (efe-epa).- The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) of the Philippines ordered ABS-CBN channel, the country’s largest telecommunications group, to immediately stop operations on Tuesday.
The order came a day after its license expired, while its renewal is pending debate in the Congress following numerous delays.
ABS-CBN, which employs some 11,000 people, is Southeast Asia’s oldest television channel and has been on the air for 25 years.
However, in recent times the channel has been known to be critical of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has accused them of being unfair while reporting.
Duterte had repeatedly threatened to shutdown the broadcaster, most recently in December, when he urged its owners to sell the company to avoid the cancellation of its license.
However, Duterte’s officials have maintained that the renewal of the license was not the responsibility of the government and that the president has not been trying to influence the process in this respect.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had earlier said the matter would be left to the NTC to decide, and whatever the decision, it would be implemented by the government.
The NTC, in a resolution issued Tuesday, ordered ABS-CBN to stop all emissions since its license expired on May 4.
The Commission asked ABS-CBN to stop all operations on its different radio and television stations across the country, and gave the company 10 days to answer why the frequencies assigned to it should not be withdrawn.
Although the company may appeal the decision, Justice Minister Menardo Guevarra underlined the order would come into effect immediately, although – as verified by EFE – the broadcaster has continued to operate as usual.
The decision to renew the license rests with Congress, where since last year there have been several proposals for renewal pending debate.
Several sections have attributed these delays to the House of Representatives Speaker Alan Cayetano, who is a political ally of Duterte.
The Congress held its first debate on ABS-CBN licensing, but the break between sessions – that normally occurs in the Philippines between March and April – and quarantine against the COVID-19 outbreak have prevented the resumption of discussions before the expiry of the license.
But the offensive against ABS-CBN has also come from the judicial flank, as Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a petition with the Supreme Court in February to annul the broadcaster’s license.
Calida alleged that ABS-CBN was operating illegally given that it is partially financed from foreign capital, violating the country’s law on local media entities.
The broadcaster has stressed that their operations are legally compliant and that foreign capital was used to fund the company through Philippine Deposit Receipts, which is permitted by law.
Soon after the decision of the Commission was made public, the people voiced their support for media entity, and hashtags such as #DefendPressFreedom and #NoToABSCBNShutDown began trending on the internet. EFE-EPA