'Questionable and alarming': Lawmakers say quo warranto vs ABS-CBN 'pre-empted' move of Congress
Photo shows ABS-CBN building.

'Questionable and alarming': Lawmakers say quo warranto vs ABS-CBN 'pre-empted' move of Congress

(Philstar.com) - February 10, 2020 - 12:04pm

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers slammed the quo warranto petition filed by government lawyers against broadcasting giant ABS-CBN, saying the move is an assault to the separation of powers of the legislature and the judiciary.

Solicitor General Jose Calida asked Monday the Supreme Court to revoke the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN and its communications arm ABS-CBN Convergence Inc. Government lawyers accused the television network of “unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises.”

“We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers. These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years,” Calida said in a statement.

According to Rule 66 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the solicitor general can file a quo warranto (Latin for "by what authority") against “a person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise.”

In 2018, Calida filed a quo warranto petition against former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno that eventually led to her removal from office. 

The petition is filed as the House of Representatives continues to sit on the bills that seek to renew the network’s franchise. ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise will expire by the end of March.

Pre-empted action of Congress’

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro), one of the proponents of ABS-CBN franchise renewal in the lower house, said the move is an “assault to constitutional press freedom and separation of powers of the judiciary and the legislature.”

Deputy House Speaker Johnny Pimentel (Surigao del Sur) called the quo warranto petition a “questionable and alarming development.”

“It is only Congress that has the power to grant or cancel franchises. In this case, the OSG has already pre-empted the action to be taken by Congress,” Pimentel said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel.

He added: “In effect, OSG is usurping the power of Congress. Congress has not even decided whether to renew or cancel the franchise of ABS-CBN and with this development, this can have an adverse effect during the hearing, if ever we hold hearings on the renewal.”

Neri Colmenares, Bayan Muna chair, said the move shows that OSG has become a “biased institution used for President Duterte’s political vendetta.”

Instead of targeting the Lopez-owned broadcasting company, government lawyers should go after public utilities “which have a major impact on the people’s suffering,” he said. 

ABS-CBN has been at the receiving end of Duterte's rants, often complaining the broadcasting giant did not air his political advertisements. 

House panel urged not to ‘temporize’ action on pending bills

Rep. Lawrence Fortun (Agusan del Norte) said the quo warranto petition might be “moot and academic” in few weeks.

“I hope the committee on legislative franchises does not use this as a justification not to proceed with hearing of the network’s application for renewal. This is a sad picture I’m seeing: the committee may not hear the franchise renewal bills saying there’s a pending matter in the Supreme Court related to the validity of ABS-CBN’s current franchise,” Fortun said.

For Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay), the petition is “unwarranted and misplaced.”

The opposition lawmaker called on the House panel “not [to] temporize its action on the pending bills proposing the extension of ABS-CBN franchise because it must maintain its independence from the executive and judicial departments.”

Sen. Grace Poe, who chairs Senate public services committee, said her panel still intends to tackle the corporation’s franchise renewal despite the quo warranto petition.

“The Senate’s jurisdiction over franchises remains despite the existence of the petition,” she said.

Attack on press freedom, loss of livelihood

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chair Nonoy Espina told ABS-CBN News Channel that should Congress fail to act on pending bills, this proves that “they are nothing but administration lapdogs.”

“We call on Congress and the Supreme Court to once and for all prove to the people that they are truly, as the Constitution envisions, independent and co-equal branches of government that are not at the beck and call of the executive,” NUJP said in a separate statement.

“We must not allow the vindictiveness of one man, no matter how powerful, to run roughshod over the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the press and of expression, and the people’s right to know,” the group added.

Up to 11,000 workers, who depend on ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries or sister companies for their bread and butter, fear to lose their jobs or will indirectly be dislocated once the company’s franchise is denied.

“This is not just about ABS-CBN. This is not just about the Philippine media. This is all about whether anyone can or should deprive you, the Filipino people, of your right to know,” NUJP said. — Gaea Katreena Cabico with reports from The STAR and BusinessWorld


As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 18, 2021 - 3:38pm

ABS-CBN Corp. stopped broadcasting on its TV and radio stations on May 5, 2020 after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order. The network's franchise had lapsed on May 4 without action by the House of Representatives.

January 18, 2021 - 3:38pm

Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas) has filed a bill seeking the renewal of the franchise granted to broadcast giant ABS-CBN.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier filed a similar bill at the Senate, saying a majority of Filipinos get their news primarily from TV. 

Franchise bills emanate from the House of Representatives.

January 5, 2021 - 8:00pm

Malacañang is leaving it up to Congress to decide on the new bill seeking to renew the franchise of television network ABS-CBN, which was forced to lay off thousands of workers after its franchise expired last May. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque disagreed, saying the fate of the bill depends on lawmakers. 

"Well, again, I beg to differ; that is a sole constitutional prerogative of Congress which must originate from the House of Representatives," Roque says at a press briefing. —  Alexis Romero

January 4, 2021 - 4:53pm

Senate President Tito Sotto files a bill renewing the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN, which went off the air in May.

Sotto's bill seeks to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation, which expired in March 2020, to another 25 years.

"ABS-CBN's wide reach to Filipinos, alongside with the undeniable advantages of broadcast media relative to mass communication, definitely calls for the immediate renewal of the network's franchise," Sotto says in his bill.

October 6, 2020 - 2:27pm

Broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp. is returning to free TV starting Saturday after striking a deal with Zoe Broadcasting Network Inc. 

The network announces that "some entertainment shows and movies" it produces will be aired in the "rebranded" A2Z channel 11, formerly Zoe TV, the free TV channel of Jesus Is Lord Church led and founded by Eddie Villanueva.

"A2Z channel 11 will be seen on analog TV in Metro Manila and nearby provinces," the network says.

September 24, 2020 - 11:13am

Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III tenders his resignation as chairman emeritus and director of ABS-CBN Corporation due to personal reasons.

Lopez also steps down as director of ABS-CBN Holdings Corporation, Sky Vision Corporation, Sky Cable Corporation, First Philippine Holdings Corporation, First Gen Corporation and Rockwell Land Corporation.

"He expressed his appreciation for the trust of the stockholders as well as to his co-directors and senior management for the privilege of having served with them over the years," ABS CBN Head of Corporate Communications Kane Errol Choa says in a statement.

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