By Lance Arevada 

PHOTO: Bored Productive

After almost two years of the network giant’s forced shutdown, a company owned by business and real estate tycoon Manny Villar has secured a permit from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to take over the broadcast frequencies previously owned by ABS-CBN Corporation.

In a press release, the NTC has confirmed that it awarded a Provisional Authority (PA) to Villar’s Advanced Media Broadcasting System Inc. (AMBS) to “install, operate, and maintain a digital TV broadcasting system in Metro Manila and Mega Manila area using Channel 16.” This channel was previously held by ABS-CBN as its digital TV frequency.

“AMBS was granted the PA after the determination of its legal, technical, and financial qualification,” the commission said.

The agency also added that they sought policy guidance and legal advice from the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) and Department of Justice (DOJ), along with the concurrence of the Office of the Executive Secretary, before granting the PA to AMBS.

Furthermore, the NTC announced that it has temporarily assigned the Channel 2 frequency, the paired analog channel of digital channel 16, to the Villar-owned firm for simulcast purposes “to ensure service to both analog and digital TV signal users as the country transitions to digital TV.”

“This temporary assignment is for simulcast purposes only, and only until the scheduled analog shut-off in 2023,” they added.

These developments were first reported by business site Bilyonaryo, with the documents obtained showing that the PA for Channel 16 was granted on January 5 signed by the three commissioners from the NTC.

In a subsequent order on January 6, the NTC granted a permit to AMBS for a test broadcast using the Channel 2 frequency from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM in Villar-owned Starmall EDSA-Shaw.

Manny Villar, listed by Forbes as the country’s richest person, is known to have contributed to the campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 Elections. However, the actual amount of his contributions were not revealed.

In 2017, the President in an overseas event said that he would die for the business and real estate tycoon. “Para sa akin, pwede ako magpakamatay sa kanya. Kasi mabait eh,” he said.

Before ABS-CBN was forced to shut down due to the expiration of its franchise, Duterte has repeatedly threatened the network giant that he will block any attempts to the company’s franchise renewal application.

“If you are expecting na ma-renew ‘yan (franchise), I am sorry. I will see to it that you are out,” Duterte said in a speech in 2020.

Mark Villar, son of the billionaire and former politician, was appointed by Duterte as Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). He has spearheaded the administration’s Build, Build, Build Program and has resigned in October 2021.

The younger Villar is now running for senator under the ruling party PDP-Laban, with the endorsement of Duterte. If elected, he will be serving his term in the upper chamber along with his mother, incumbent Senator Cynthia Villar, who is already a part of the administration’s supermajority.

Former Diwa Representative Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Mark’s wife, was also appointed by Duterte as DOJ Undersecretary in 2018. It must be noted that the NTC sought legal opinion from the DOJ before granting the PA to AMBS.

In addition, incumbent Deputy Speaker and Las Piñas Representative Camille Villar, daughter of the tycoon and incumbent senator, has voted in 2020 to junk the franchise renewal application of ABS-CBN in Congress.