MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals 10th Division has affirmed 2 orders by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) imposing a fine to GMA Network, Inc. for operating its DYSP-AM radio station in Puerto Princesa, Palawan with an expired Provisional Authority.
The NTC order dated May 25, 2009 renewed GMA's Provisional Authority to install, operate and maintain the radio station but imposed upon it a fine of P152,100; NTC order dated January 8, 2010 modified the earlier order by reducing the fine to P76,050.
GMA filed a petition for review with the appellate court.
GMA posited that the NTC "gravely erred in imposing a penalty of fine against petitioner GMA in spite of the fact that its violation, if any, has long since prescribe."
GMA also insisted that the fine, which is more than P25,000, is contrary to the policy implied in the Public Service Law(Chapter 4); GMA also noted that it was issued temporary permits by the NTC.
But it is the NTC's position that GMA should be fined as it has already failed to renew its Provisional Authority(PA) for said radio station since its expiration on July 14, 1998 and instead continued its broadcast operations on the basis of 4 temporary permits, with each permit with a 3-year validity period.
On January 14, 1997, the NTC granted GMA this 18-month PA pending its application for issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) to install, operate and maintain the 5-kilowatt AM radio station.
On September 13, 2002, 4 years after the expiration of its PA, GMA filed with the NTC an Ex-Parte Motion for Issuance of Certificate of Public Convenience averring full compliance with the terms and conditions of its PA and current operation by virtue of a temporary permit.
GMA claimed that the delay in the filing of its Ex-Parte Motion was not deliberate but due to a confusion caused by the turnover of custody of documents between its previous and current lawyers.
Thus, the NTC May 2009 and January 2010 orders.
In a 14-page decision penned by Associate Justice Hakim Abdulwahid, the appellate court said GMA's petition is unmeritorious.
The ruling said the NTC was right in imposing a fine on GMA to administratively sanction it for non-compliance of its PA.
The appellate court also said that the fine imposed is "at best, minimal and conservative in the light of the duration of GMA's violations".
The ruling further noted that "to subscribe to GMA's contention of prescription is not sound policy; for in so doing, broadcast service providers, operating with expired authorities can easily evade liability...."
"This we cannot and must not tolerate, it being our legal and moral duty to correct acts that undermine compliance with the laws, and to forestall any act that promotes or encourages the same," the court added.