File photo shows President Rodrigo Duterte and presidential spokesman and chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo.
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Palace: Quo warranto plea to revoke ABS-CBN franchise won't end in constitutional crisis
Alexis Romero ( - January 19, 2020 - 5:39pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang Sunday disputed the claim that there would be a constitutional crisis if the Supreme Court decides to cancel the franchise of television network ABS-CBN because of a petition filed by state lawyers.

Previous reports claimed that the Office of the Solicitor General would file a quo warranto petition asking the Supreme Court to revoke the franchise of broadcast giant. The reports surfaced weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte, who had accused ABS-CBN of biased reporting and swindling, vowed to block the renewal of the network's franchise, which will expire in March.

Media groups have condemned the supposed plan to seek the revocation of the franchise, calling it a threat to press freedom. Last Saturday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson warned that a quo warranto petition against the Lopez-owned network's franchise could lead to a "constitutional crisis" because the power to renew legislative franchises lies with Congress.

But presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo disagreed, saying the renewal of franchise and running after the violations of its terms and conditions are two different things.

"There is none. Why would there be a constitutional crisis?" Panelo said in a radio interview.

"The franchise coming from Congress is different from the violations of the (terms and conditions of the) franchise... Both can independently be taken together," he added.

Panelo insisted that the OSG has the responsibility to run after those who broke the law.

"With due respect to my good friend Senator Lacson, he's not a lawyer. He should have consulted the matter with his lawyers first. The (Solicitor General) has the duty to file cases against those who violated the law," he added.

Panelo also revealed that the supposed unpaid taxes of the Lopez family, the owners of ABS-CBN, is one of the grounds for the filing of the case against the network's franchise.

When reminded that ABS-CBN already has compromise agreements with the tax bureau, Panelo said the deals did not happen during the presidency of Duterte.

"Kasi kung nangyari 'yan sa mga nakaraan ibig sabihin may na namang mga sabwatan diyan (If it happened in the past then there was conspiracy involved)," the Palace spokesman said.

Duterte has accused ABS-CBN of swindling for allegedly refusing to return the money he paid for campaign commercials even if the advertisements did not air. He has also claimed that the Lopez family has debts with the state-run Development Bank of the Philippines. 

Research by revealed that ABS-CBN and its units have entered into four compromise agreements with the tax bureau since 2018, all of them approved by the Court of Tax Appeals.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 18, 2020 - 12:38pm

President Duterte threatens not to renew ABS-CBN's franchise, his latest in what critics call a string of verbal attacks against dissenting media.

February 18, 2020 - 12:38pm

The Institute of Corporate Directors, Institute for Solidarity in Asia, the Makati Business Club, and the Management Association of the Philippines, in a joint statement, "fervently urge Congress to judiciously address any issues raised" against ABS-CBN Corp. while also "taking serious account of the bedrock issues of media freedom and free enterprise."

The four business groups also "express our strong support for a balanced, fair and timely consideration" of bills filed to renew the network's franchise.

February 18, 2020 - 11:41am

Sen. Grace Poe says the Senate will push through with its hearing on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN despite the gag order filed by the Office of the Solicitor General.

"A motion for a gag order is what it is. Just a motion," Poe said in a statement Tuesday.

Poe, chair of the Senate Commitee on Public Services, said the Supreme Court will have to decide on the case before recognizing the jurisdiction of its co-equal branch.

"Whether it will apply the gag order on our hearings is up to the Court to decide but our hearing will push through according to our Constitutional mandate," she said.

February 18, 2020 - 11:32am

The Office of the Solicitor General asks the Supreme Court to issue a gag order against ABS-CBN Corp. and ABS-CBN Convergence in relation to the quo warranto petition filed against the broadcast giant.

February 17, 2020 - 1:47pm

Senate Minority Franklin Drilon files a Senate joint resolution extending the franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation until Dec. 31, 2022.

Drilon filed Senate Joint Resolution 11 on February 17, noting that there are only 12 session days left before Congress adjourns March 14. The legislative franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN expires on March 30.

"[B]oth the Senate and the House of Representatives need additional time to review, assess and determine whether or not ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation shall be granted the renewal of its franchise," the resolution read.

February 16, 2020 - 1:45pm

It is unclear, despite assurances from lawmakers, that broadcast giant ABS-CBN can actually keep operating when it franchise exprires in March and while its renewal is pending in Congress, Sen. Grace Poe says Sunda.

"Kahit sabihin pa nila na pwede naman 'yan i-extend hanggang 2022, maganda siguro kung in writing o kaya at least verbally sabihin ng Kongreso, ‘We commit to give ABS-CBN through the National Telecommunications Commission a temporary permit to operate’ kasi hindi naman 'yan nakasulat sa batas. 'Yan ay kortesiya lamang na ibinibigay ng Kongreso at NTC,” Poe said.

(Even if they say that that can be extended up to 2022, it might be better to put it in writing or at least for Congress to say: "We commit to give ABS-CBN through the National Telecommunications Commission a temporary permit to operate" because that isn't in the law. That is only a courtesy that Congress and the NTC grants)
Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, filed a resolution this week to hold hearings on alleged franchise violations by ABS-CBN Corp. and by its subsidiary ABS-CBN Converge.

A quo warranto petition has also been filed at the Supreme Court alleging those violations.

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