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It seems that the Lopez family finally got some divine intervention months after Congress rejected the franchise renewal bid of media conglomerate ABS-CBN, as Solicitor General Jose Calida is reportedly no longer seeking the closure of its sister company SkyCable despite the expiration of its legislative franchise last March.

Politiko learned from congressional insiders that Calida will no longer ask the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue a cease and desist order against the Lopez-owned cable company despite its expired congressional franchise.

The reason? The recently signed block time deal between the Kapamilya Network and Zoe Broadcasting Corporation of televangelist and current House Deputy Speaker Bro. Eddie Villanueva

Unknown to many, Calida is reportedly a member of Jesus Is Lord (JIL) Church, the influential religious group founded by Villanueva—who also currently serves as representative of party-list group Citizen’s Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) in the House of Representatives.

As per report by Newsbreak in 2001, Villanueva’s JIL played a key role when the Solicitor General was first appointed Undersecretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) during the Arroyo administration in 2001.

ZOE Broadcasting’s block time partnership with ABS-CBN rival GMA-7 ended on June 2, 2020 following the release of the Kapuso network’s 2018 financial report which declared the increasing lease payments that the firm contributes to the former for the past three years in exchange of operating VHF Channel 11—from P899.89 million in 2016 to almost a billion pesos in 2018.

Talks between ABS-CBN and ZOE have begun since early 2017 as first reported by Politiko and its sister publishing company Abante News, after President Rodrigo Duterte consistently threatened the Lopez-owned media conglomerate that their congressional franchise will not be renewed under his watch.

ABS-CBN last Wednesday released the list of its shows that will air on Villanueva’s ZOE-TV 11.

A source said Calida doesn’t want to antagonize the new block time deal between ABS-CBN and ZOE out of respect to the JIL founder since the religious network also signed a separate deal with SkyCable—the inclusion of ZOE TV in the channel lineup of the Lopez-controlled cable company.

In June, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta questioned the continuous operations of Sky Cable amid its supposed expired congressional franchise.

Republic Act No. 7969 which was approved on March 30, 1995 grants a 25-year franchise on Sky Cable, formerly known as Central CATV, Inc. until March 31, 2020.

NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba cited Section 1 of Executive Order No. 205 series of 1987 signed by former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino on June 30, 1987, which states that “the operation of Cable Antenna Television (CATV) system in the Philippines shall be open to all citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations wholly-owned and managed by such citizens under a Certificate of Authority granted by the National Telecommunications Commission, hereinafter referred to as the Commission.”

Cordoba stressed that Aquino’s EO 205 s.1987 spared cable companies from securing franchise from Congress and authorized the NTC to issue a certificate of authority for those cable companies who are planning to operate in the country.

But Marcoleta reminded Cordoba that the EO can’t be considered as statute since it was signed and approved by Mrs. Aquino more than four months after the 1987 Constitution was ratified and took effect on February 2, 1987.

Marcoleta stressed that Mrs. Aquino has more legislative powers guaranteed by the de facto “Freedom Constitution” when she signed the said EO and that time was already being governed by the 1987 Charter.

The House official noted the fact that SkyCable did apply for legislative franchise to Congress in 1995, is a recognition the company has submitted itself to the rules and regulations provided under the Republic Act 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of 1995.

Principally authored by North Cotabato Rep. Jose “Ping” Tejada, House Bill No. 3121 seeks to grant Sky Cable a fresh 25-year franchise “to establish, construct, maintain and operate for commercial purposes cable/community antenna television systems in the Philippines.” (CMC)

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