“I’m not at loggerheads with Congress. I only cautioned the NTC of its possible encroachment with the House,” Solicitor General Jose Calida explained, in view of the chamber’s “exclusive” mandate to issue legislative franchises like that of ABS-CBN.
Facebook screengrab/Presidential Communications, File
Calida, NTC chief attend House probe on ABS-CBN franchise
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - June 2, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Solicitor General Jose Calida and National Telecommunications Commissioner (NTC) commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba attended yesterday’s hearing of the House of Representatives on the franchise application of television giant ABS-CBN after they snubbed it on June 26 last year. 

Both government officials thanked Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Reps. Franz Alvarez (Palawan) and Jonathan Sy-Alvarado (Bulacan), chairmen of the House committee on legislative franchises and good government, respectively. 

Calida and Cordoba attended the hearing remotely or online through the Zoom app. 

The chief government defense counsel nevertheless reminded lawmakers that he could not answer queries that would involve the merits of the petition now pending in the Supreme Court, which has issued a gag order against him. 

“I’m not at loggerheads with Congress. I only cautioned the NTC of its possible encroachment with the House,” Calida explained, in view of the chamber’s “exclusive” mandate to issue legislative franchises like that of ABS-CBN. 

By encroachment, the OSG chief meant the NTC cannot issue any provisional franchise to the Lopez-owned network in the absence of any legislative franchise that should emanate from the House. Thus, the cease and desist order the NTC issued on May 5. 

Cordoba made the same justification, saying “the spring cannot rise higher than the source.” 

“We cannot substitute the mandate of Congress, which will be a violation of the doctrine of the separation of powers,” he said, as the NTC is under the executive department.

Cordoba nonetheless apologized for failing to inform Congress of their action issuing the CDO. 

“We realized that the NTC should have made an advance notice. After all, hindsight is always 20/20. I would like to reiterate our apologies. It is never our intention to disrespect Congress. We hope this incident will not be given any political color,” the NTC chief said. 

Meantime, the House joint committee has extended its invitation – upon the motion of Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta – to former ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio Lopez III to attend the next hearing tomorrow. 

“There are questions that are personal to him. I don’t think that lawyers present will be able to answer all these questions. As a matter of courtesy to the House he should be here,” the congressman from party-list Sagip said. 

“The issue of citizenship is a serious matter. I hope that representatives of ABS-CBN will find it in their heart the importance of being able to motivate him, convince him to be present,” Marcoleta maintained.

But ABS-CBN president Carlo Katigbak, who was present during the hearing, defended his former boss from allegations he was a US citizen and could have thus violated the 1987 Constitution which categorically states that only true-blooded Filipinos can own companies.  

He admitted though that Lopez indeed used an American passport, but this was because he was born in Boston in April 1952, which also makes him a US citizen having been born on American soil. 

But Lopez is also Filipino since he was born to Filipino parents Eugenio Jr. and Conchita Lao.

“The 1935 Constitution applies in the case of Gabby Lopez. By virtue of his birth, he is also automatically a Filipino. And this has been the DOJ’s ruling in 2001 that gave him a Philippine passport,” Katigbak said.

“The reference in Section 1, Article 4 of the 1935 Constitution is very clear: The following are citizens of the Philippines – those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines,” he explained further, noting that Lopez Jr. and his wife Conchita were “natural-born” Filipinos. 

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