Look who’s talking.
A suddenly indignant Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez is threatening to hold in contempt National Telecommunications Commission for backtracking on its commitment to allow ABS-CBN Corp. to operate even after the expiration of its franchise on May 4, 2020.
But people should not forget that Alvarez, nephew of Palawan Governor Jose “Pepito” Alvarez, is directly responsible for sitting on the
franchise renewal application of ABS-CBN in the Lower House, where all franchise bids begin.
Alvarez has been chairman of the House committee on legislative franchises since 2016. It is an open secret that Alvarez has sat on
the bills pushing for ABS-CBN’s renewal due to strict orders from President Rodrigo Duterte who has a beef with ABS-CBN’s owners, the
Lopez family. Duterte had reportedly told Alvarez not to hold any hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise which his committee faithfully followed
in the last four years.
In 2017, Alvarez admitted he was in no rush to tackle ABS-CBN’s franchise bills because there were other franchises that would expire
earlier than the media giant. He even stressed that the franchise’s fate was ultimately in the hands of Duterte who could veto it.
As late as January this year, Alvarez was adamant that “the grant of a franchise is not a right, but a privilege” and that its approval or disapproval was not a freedom of the press issue.
Alvarez made this statement a month after Duterte advised the Lopez to sell their shares in the network.
Now that NTC has issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN after being threatened with a graft case by Solicitor General Jose Calida, Alvarez, who has not held a single hearing for the 11 pending ABS-CBN franchise bills, is doing a Pontius Pilate and wants NTC to take all the blame for ABS-CBN’s shutdown.
“There is no reason for ABS-CBN to discontinue or stop their operations until we make a final decision…If the NTC chooses to
succumb to the pressure of the Solicitor General, and disregard the commitments they gave under oath, we reserve the right to call them
before Congress and explain why they should not be held in contempt,” said Alvarez in a statement just hours after NTC issued the closure order.
Alvarez was referring to a House hearing in March when NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba declared he would follow the advice of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to give a provisional authority allowing ABS-CBN to operate while its franchise renewal bid was pending in Congress.
Alvarez explained why the last four years hours was not enough time to approve ABS-CBN’s franchise: “This is necessary to allow Congress sufficient time to assess the qualifications of the applicant and make a complete review of the positions of the different stakeholders. Particularly since there are many voices for and against the renewal.”