Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday said his office may issue a legal opinion before the end of this month on whether broadcast firm ABS-CBN may be granted provisional authority pending renewal of its legislative franchise.
"We got the request Tuesday afternoon we hope to reply by next week. The main question is whether or not ABS-CBN may continue operating after the lapse of the franchise period, pending action by the congress on the franchise renewal bills." Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
Senator Christopher "Bong" Go earlier said the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has requested the DOJ's opinion following announcements made by the Senate that it intends to look into the questions raised about the firm's franchise renewal.
Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto suit against the firm before the Supreme Court.
Calida, in the suit, accused the firm of illegally acquiring smaller corporations that have legislative franchises over frequencies and using investment schemes to circumvent the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership of mass media entities.
He also argued that the use of Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs) by the broadcast network's holdings firm, ABS-CBN Holdings Corp. is not only prohibited by the Constitution but "criminal liability is also imposed on those who violate foreign equity restrictions and evade nationalization laws of the Philippines through various modes of proxy arrangement, making it appear as legal, but the entirety of the arrangement is to accomplish a transaction not allowed under Philippine laws".
Calida also cried foul over the broadcasting firm's acquisition of Amcara which is now ABS-CBN Sports and Action.
Amcara was incorporated on Apr. 11, 1994, and was granted a legislative franchise which lapsed into law on July 16, 1995, and will expire on July 16, 2020.
Amcara started its broadcasts using Channel 23. Channel 23 was, however, renamed Studio 23 in 2010 and was rebranded as ABS-CBN Sports and Action in 2014.
ABS-CBN said in 2012 that it had invested or advanced 49 percent of equity interest or ownership in Amcara, which ABS-CBN considers as one of its subsidiaries.
Source: Philippines News Agency