Calida declines to attend Senate hearing on ABS-CBN anew, cites 'sub judice'

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Calida declines to attend Senate hearing on ABS-CBN anew, cites 'sub judice'
This undated photo shows Solicitor General Jose Calida.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — Solicitor General Jose Calida has again declined to attend the Senate hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise, saying issues surrounding the matter are part of pending petitions in the Supreme Court.

The Senate Committee on Public Services on Monday tackled four proposed measures relating to ABS-CBN, such as a grant of a 25-year franchise and a provisional franchise to the network.

Among the invited resource persons to the hearing is Calida. But in a statement sent to reporters, he said the discussion would be “sub judice,” 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.”

Calida also cited sub judice when he was refused to attend a hearing on the issue on February 24, then headed by Sen. Grace Poe.

Pendency of SC petitions involving ABS-CBN

Calida has previously sought to revoke ABS-CBN’s now-expired legislative franchise in a quo warranto petition filed before the SC. He accused the network of violations against its franchise law; all of which were denied by the network in a comment it earlier filed before the SC and in a separate hearing at the Senate last February.

“The issues on and violations of the ABS-CBN’s franchise, together with the possible ‘extension of the franchise,’ are the lis mota of the petition for quo warranto which the Solicitor General filed and is now pending before the Supreme Court,” Calida said.

“[T]hese bring the case under the sub judice which prohibits the Solicitor General as petitioner and officer of the court from sharing his views and commenting on the merits of said case to maintain 'the dignity and authority of the court’ in the administration of impartial justice,” he added

The solicitor general also said that he serves as the statutory counsel of the National Telecommunications Commission, respondent in a separate Petition for Certiorari filed by the network also at the SC.

He said that he would have to represent the telecommunications regulatory body when it is ordered to file a comment on ABS-CBN’s petition.

“[T]he issues involved in this case are intimately connected with the matters to be discussed during the public hearing on May 19, 2020,” he added.

Calida reiterates: Letter to NTC merely warning, no threatening

Calida also said that he merely warned the NTC of “its possible encroachment on legislative power” if it issues a provisional authority. He added: “Warning or cautioning a client is not threatening."

House leaders slammed the solicitor general’s letter to the commission, saying it was “unconstitutional meddling.”

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, in his sponsorship speech of a House bill on a proposed five-month franchise for ABS-CBN, said Calida chose to “remain silent for close to two months” but came out with threats against the NTC on the eve of opening of Congress.

READ: Cayetano deflects ABS-CBN shutdown blame to NTC, Calida

But Calida said he merely “formalized legal advice verbally given” to the NTC in his April 30 letter — in an exclusive ABS-CBN report — where he said the NTC should issue a cease and desist order against the network.

“Actually, the Solicitor General acted with circumspection because voicing out his concerns to Congress without being requested by it would have constituted meddling in its affairs, apart from the fact that the issues he is raising are sub judice," he added.

Calida also pointed out that there was no rule that requires him to notify a different branch of government of an “internal communication” intended for a government body under the executive branch.

The Senate hearing is ongoing as of this story’s posting.




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