Supporters and employees of ABS-CBN, the country's largest broadcast network, hold placards as they join a protest in front of the ABS-CBN building in Manila on February 21, 2020. Philippines' government lawyers moved on February 10 to strip the nation's biggest media group of its operating franchise in what campaigners branded a fresh attack on press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte.
AFP/Basilio Sepe
Supreme Court defers discussion on plea vs ABS-CBN to March 10
Kristine Joy Patag ( - February 26, 2020 - 1:59pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court reset the its deliberations on Solicitor General Jose Calida’s quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise.

SC spokesperson Brian Hosaka told reporters that the petition against the network giant “will be taken up again by the en banc on March 10, 2020.”

“This is to give the Justices time to go over the pleadings submitted by the parties, including the comments recently filed by the respondents,” he added.

ABS-CBN and its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence filed their comments on Calida’s quo warranto petition and motion for the issuance of a gag order on Monday, February 24.

Quo warranto comment

Calida accused the network and subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence of "unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises, Republic Act 7966 and 8332."

Among the allegations thrown by Calida against the network are foreign ownership, illegal operations of its pay-per-view channel Kapamilya Box Office and illegal transfer of Multi-Media Telephony’s franchise to Convergence.

The network, in its Comment, said that the petition must be dismissed because the SC has no jurisdiction over its legislative franchise.

ABS-CBN also said that the quo warranto petition lacks merit as it denied the violations that Calida, the government's top lawyer, has alleged.

EXPLAINER: Point by point: ABS-CBN answers Solgen Calida's quo warranto petition

Gag order comment

 A week after Calida filed the quo warranto plea, he again went to the SC and urged the tribunal to prohibit “parties and persons acting on their behalf from releasing any statements discussing the merits of its quo warranto petition.”

He accused ABS-CBN of engaging in propaganda and cited reports and explainers of the network’s journalists, commentaries by its digital arm and statements of its artists and other media personalities as instances when the network violated the sub judice rule.

The sub judice rule, in Philippine jurisprudence, "restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to judicial proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court, or obstructing the administration of justice."

ABS-CBN and its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence rebutted that “[a] gag order against ABS-CBN would be a huge disservice to the Filipino people as it would deprive them of a vital source of information on a matter of transcendental importance.”

They also said that the sub judice rule “should not be applied to impair, through prior restraint, the fundamental freedoms of speech and of the press that serve as bedrocks of a democratic society.”

Franchise woes

Journalists groups have slammed Calida’s petition as an attack against press freedom and a proof that the “government is hell bent on using all its powers to shut down” ABS-CBN.

As the network defends its current franchise—ending on May 4—before the SC, it is also applying for renewal at Congress.

The House of Representatives started the proceedings on the bills calling for the network’s franchise renewal last Monday by receiving position papers on the issue, but House Speaker Alan Cayetano said they may take up the proposed measures on May or July.

The president has repeatedly threatened he would block the renewal of the broadcast network’s franchise, but presidential spokersperson Salvador Panelo said this warning should not be taken literally.

 Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, Duterte’s long time aide and de facto spokesperson, meanwhile scolded the network for airing an advertisement which he said was meant to “malign” the president in the lead up to the 2016 national elections.

He told the Senate panel Monday, in a mix of English and Filipino: “The president’s grievances against the network are not shallow. He was hurthis reputation has been tarnished... The president is not vindictive but it is clear that someone went overboard trying to malign him.”

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