A collision among the Presidency, the Senate, House, and High Court
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - February 26, 2020 - 12:00am

The question on the franchise of ABS-CBN is pushing the three branches of government; executive, legislative and judiciary, to a brink of a risky collision course. This probable collision may bring the whole nation to a constitutional crisis.

To the mind of this columnist, this matter has nothing to do with freedom of speech, press, and expression. This is a simple issue of a sovereign state taking time, and exercising utmost diligence before deciding whether or not to renew an expiring franchise. The business of ABS-CBN is not a matter of right but of privilege, a privilege granted by the state to the profit-driven business of a private corporation operating a TV network. The nation will not perish if the franchise is not renewed. There are many other groups that can fill up the vacuum. This network is not absolutely essential to the security of the state and welfare of the people. This is not a matter of public interest because ABS-CBN is not indispensable to national interests.

It is highly uncalled for on the part of the actors, actresses, and talents to undertake concerted activities, like rallies, demonstrations, press releases, and public statements to put undue pressure on government. We dare say that such actions are, in effect, undue interference in the free exercise of sovereign powers. ABS-CBN cannot use people power to coerce and twist the arms of the government in the exercise of its judicious discretion. Renewal is not a matter of a demandable right. They have to bear the burden of proof. This network should focus on submitting evidence why there are enough reasons for the state to renew its franchise.

It is also a conflict of interest on the part of some senators to speak out their bias in favor of the ABS-CBN, especially when a number of them are either lawyers of the network or had connections with law firms lawyering for it. Some of them also have wives or girlfriends who are talents, or were former talents of ABS-CBN themselves. If they want an objective and credible decision on the matter, delicadeza demands that they have to inhibit themselves from passing upon such a highly-sensitive issue. The impulsive call for investigation by the Senate is an insult to the Lower House, from whom the franchise issue should be initiated.

With all due respect, we humbly submit that the Senate's ill-timed investigation is also a violation of the sub judice rule considering that the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land, is now assuming jurisdiction over the quo warranto case petition by the solicitor general. If and when it is shown that this Senate initiative was upon the undue influence of ABS-CBN, then any freshman Law student would tell us that such a course of action is an undue infringement of the principle of separation of powers.

To our mind, the best and the most honorable option open to ABS-CBN is to wait for the due process under the auspices of the House in passing upon the network's worthiness of being conferred a renewal of its franchise. This network may yet be the last party to invoke possible loss of jobs for thousands of its employees. We should check the veracity of what Jay Sonza and Mel Tiangco (former talents of this network) who allegedly have volumes to say about how this network treats its people.

I have no personal knowledge of any of adverse allegations but as an investigative journalist, I am doing an objective research. If ABS-CBN wants to air its side, let it come forward. Or forever keep its peace.


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