Calida wants gag order over ABS-CBN explainers, stars' statements

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Calida wants gag order over ABS-CBN explainers, stars' statements
This screenshot shows part of an ABS-CBN explainer on the solicitor general's quo warranto petition. Solicitor General Jose Calida said the video "[tends] to influence public opinion and unfairly encourage the pre-judgment of the instant case."
ABS-CBN NXT screenshot

MANILA, Philippines — (Updated 3:18 p.m.) The Office of the Solicitor General has asked the Supreme Court to prohibit parties and “persons acting on their behalf” from issuing statements on its pending quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN’s franchise.

The OSG filed a Very Urgent Motion for the Issuance of Gag Order before the SC, accusing the network giant of engaging in “propaganda in clear attempt to elicit public sympathy, sway public opinion, and, ultimaletely to influence the resolution of the case” after it issued a statement on the filing.

The sub judice rule is defined by jurisprudence as a rule that “restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to judicial proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court, or obstructing the administration of justice.”

“Any person who violates this rule may render him or her liable for indirect contempt,” the OSG said in a statement.

With a little over a month to renew its legislative franchise, Calida filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN Corp. and asked the SC to revoke its franchise ending on March.

EXPLAINER: Calida cites 'transcendental importance' in case vs ABS-CBN: What is it?

In a statement after the filing, the solicitor general said: “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.”

The broadcast giant issued a statement on the same day saying that it is compliant with all government regulations and that the allegations held against them were all "without merit."

Quo warranto explainer video, artists’ statements

The motion cited particularly the “Quo warranto petition laban sa ABS-CBN, ano ang ibig sabihin?” published by ABS-CBN News on February 14.

“The statements uttered by Christian Esguerra in the video tend to influence public opinion and unfairly encourage the pre-judgment of the instant case that in the event that the quo warranto petition will be granted, the Filipinos will experience a sense of unjust treatment as they would be deprived of their favorite shows in ABS-CBN,” the motion read in part.

The video is an explainer on Calida’s allegations contained in his quo warranto petition and the network’s answers to the issues raised. Esguerra also discussed developments on ABS-CBN's renewal of franchise at the Congress.

Esguerra, a veteran journalist and reporter of the network, explained that if Solicitor General Jose Calida’s quo warranto plea is granted, all TV and radio channels of ABS-CBN—Channel 2 in Metro Manila and radio stations dzMM and MOR 101.9—will be go off air.

The video opens with snippets from the channel’s noontime variety show “It’s Showtime,” teleserye “Probinsyano” and primetime newscast, “TV Patrol,” before an abrupt cut.

The solicitor general  also cited the “Pagbabalita ng DZMM binigyang pugay ng karaniwang Pilipino” video broadcasted on “TV Patrol” on February 16 where, Calida said, “interviews were conducted from a few students eliciting from them biased answers” in favor of the network.

Another video he mentioned is the “Pagtatalakay ng Quo Warranto vs ABS-CBN sa korte sinimulan na,” aired February 11 on TV Patrol, which is a report on the SC order for comment, ABS-CBN’s defense for its KBO operations and the reaction of Vice President Leni Robredo and presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on the quo warranto plea.

Calida also cited the series of commentaries of the network “that tend to prejudge the case and influence” the high court.

'Unsolicited opinions'

The OSG also raised to the court the posts of ABS-CBN’s talents and other personalities “giving their unsolicited opinions” on the petition.

"Any grievances must be ventilated through the proper petitions, motions, or other pleadings before the courts. Our courts must be able to conduct its business in an orderly manner free from outside interference and influence," Calida said in the statement.

'A threat to franchise, then a gag order'

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson later Tuesday called the motion “ridiculous.” 

He pointed out that Calida had already sought the revocation of the network’s franchise and is now moving to "silence all critics with an absurd gag order on specious grounds."

Robertson added: "Why is President Duterte and the Philippines government so scared of independent opinions and a free press?"

Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna) also said that Calida’s motion for a gag order is “a measure to muzzle critics and opposition,” and “emblematic of the administration’s aversion to dissent and criticism.”

He added: “If Solgen Calida cannot take the heat then he should not have filed the harassment quo warranto case in the first place.”

ABS-CBN is due to file its comment on Calida’s quo warranto petition on February 24.

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