House lawmaker confident quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN will be dismissed by SC
President Rodrigo Duterte talks with Solicitor General General Jose Calida during a post-Cabinet meeting in Malacañan’s State Dining Room on August 22, 2016
TOTO LOZANO/PPD, file
House lawmaker confident quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN will be dismissed by SC
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - February 12, 2020 - 3:37pm

MANILA, Philippines — A House lawmaker on Wednesday morning expressed confidence that the quo warranto petition filed by state lawyers against broadcast company ABS-CBN would eventually be dropped as their legislative franchise was not under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. 

In a quo warranto petition filed at the Supreme Court, the Office of the Solicitor General sought to revoke the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation, the largest media network in the country. A quo warranto, Latin for "by what authority," is a legal challenge on an entity's claim to a particular public office, position or franchise. Thus, Calida's petition, for instance, challenges the legitimacy of ABS-CBN's legislative franchise.

READ: Solgen Calida asks Supreme Court to revoke ABS-CBN franchise

As of this writing, a total of 11 bills have been filed pushing for the renewal of the network's legislative franchise. Some of the aforementioned bills were filed as early as last year and have not moved forward despite the lengthy time period. 

The franchise's renewal has been pending since Sept. 15, 2014. 

Their current franchise, which was approved by virtue of Republic Act 7966, expires on March 20, 2020, at which point their radio and broadcast operations will have to shut down if no renewal is approved. 

'Outside of Supreme Court jurisdiction'

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro) in an interview with ANC's "Early Edition" said that he was optimistic that the petition would ultimately be dismissed by the SC, citing that the high court holds no jurisdiction over franchise matters.

"The Constitution has given the power of franchises to the Congress. Solicitor General (Jose) Calida is wrong in usurping the power of Congress by trying to go to the Supreme Court," he said. 

On the Congress website itself, the House Committee on Legislative Franchise lists "All matters directly and principally relating to the grant, amendment, extension or revocation of franchises" as its jurisdiction.

'Delayed with no green light'

Rodriguez also disclosed that the chair of the House Committee on Legislative Franchise believes the ABS-CBN franchise bills filed in the House of Representatives have been stalled because there was no approval from House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. 

He quoted committee chair Rep. Franz Alvarez, who supposedly said, "in exact words, wala pang clearance sa itaas," allegedly referring to Cayetano, an outspoken ally of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

"That's why he's restrained from these bills," Rodriguez added.

Yet, Cayetano promised to the media that he would give the issue an impartial hearing.

In filing the measure, Calida opted not to respond to reporters when asked why such a petition was filed now when the network's expiration date was soon coming. 

"Our session ends on March 11, so that is the reckoning point as far as Congress is concerned," Rodriguez said. 

READ: Cayetano: 'Congress will be fair' on ABS-CBN franchise renewal

In December 2019, Cayetano announced that Congress would no longer tackle the pending bills for the rest of the year, saying the would still have enough time to do so anyway in the coming year. This contradicted an earlier claim of his that the House would see to it that ABS-CBN's franchise would be tackled by the end of that year. 

'National concerns'

On Tuesday, Cayetano in a statement said the House "has always been a partner of President Rodrigo Duterte in creating a safe and comfortable life for every Filipino."

The chief executive often lambasted the broadcast giant because they allegedly aired unflattering commercials of him paid for by his political rivals. He has not been shy about expressing his ire for the network, often including his rants about them in speeches. 

Duterte, who previously vowed to guarantee that the network would not see a franchise renewal, can still veto any bill that hurdles Congress. 

"Well, yes, definitely, the president has all the right to come out with his experience with ABS-CBN," Rodriguez said of the president's constant tirades.

"But I believe that the higher concerns and interests of our country is to protect the freedom of the press."

ABS-CBN CONVERGENCE INC. ABS-CBN CORPORATION OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
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