President Rodrigo Duterte bows his head in prayer prior to the start of the Joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police Command Conference at the Malacañan Palace on February 6, 2020.
Presidential Photo/Toto Lozano
'Calida's just doing his job': Palace denies hand in quo warranto bid vs ABS-CBN
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - February 10, 2020 - 3:04pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte, who has repeatedly threatened to block the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN Corp., was not behind the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of Solicitor General against the media giant, Malacañang said.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Solicitor General Jose Calida was only doing his job when he asked the Supreme Court to revoke the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN and its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence Inc.

“The solicitor general is constitutionally bound to institute any action against any transgressors of law and if a franchise holder is violating its franchise, then it is his duty to file a petition for quo warranto,” Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel, said.

In the petition, the government’s top lawyer accused the broadcasting company of “unlawfully exercising their legislative franchise.” He maintained “there is no politics” involved in his moves.

The plea came a little over a month before the franchise of ABS-CBN expires. Bills calling for its franchise renewal remain pending before Congress.

Nonoy Espina, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chairperson, said the petition is the administration’s way to “stop” Congress from acting on the bills.

Some lawmakers also slammed the move, saying the filing of the petition is an encroachment on congressional power.

'Duterte's threat unrelated to OSG's move'

ABS-CBN has been at the receiving end of many of the president’s verbal attacks. He has repeatedly threatened he would block the renewal of the broadcast network’s franchise.

In December last year, Duterte said the owners of ABS-CBN should “just sell” the network as he reiterated that it is unlikely that Congress—controlled by his allies and supporters—would renew its franchise.

“Now with respect to the president’s feelings about the ABS-CBN, you must remember that there is a basis for his expression of displeasure,” Panelo said.

Duterte has repeatedly accused ABS-CBN of swindling for allegedly refusing to return the money he paid for campaign commercials even if the advertisements did not air.

“But it doesn’t mean nor has it any to do with the petition filed by the solicitor general because that is the job of the solicitor general and if he does not do that, then he would be charged with dereliction of duty,” Panelo said, stressing the chief executive has “definitely nothing to do” with the move.

But for the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Calida’s petition proves that “this government is hellbent on using all its powers to shut down” ABS-CBN.

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.

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