MANILA - The Supreme Court might ask the Office of the Solicitor General to avail of administrative remedies before hearing its quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN Corp. and one of its subsidiaries, a lawyer said Monday.
Solicitor General Jose Calida had cited supposed "abuses" in ABS-CBN’s franchise, which will expire in March. The House of Representatives has yet to hear several bills seeking to renew the company's license to operate.
A "quo warranto" is a legal procedure that is filed against someone who "usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise", according to Rule 66 of the Rules of Civil Procedure.
Usurpation means the franchise was given illegally from the start to a company, while violations of franchise are committed during the firm's operations, according to Atty. Marichu Lambino, media law and ethics expert at the UP College of Mass Communication.
"Iba 'yung violation of the franchise. Merong administrative remedies sa mga violations of franchise," she told radio DZMM.
(Violation of franchise is different, there are administrative remedies for that.)
"Merong administrative remedies na nire-require ang ating Supreme Court bago dinggin ang isang quo warranto petition o anumang special civil action."
(There are administrative remedies required by the Supreme Court before hearing a quo warranto petition or any special civil action."
The Solicitor General may file his complaint before the National Telecommunications Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, or raise it to the House of Representatives to exhaust administrative remedies, she said.
Should the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp expire on March 30 before the Supreme Court hears the case, it would be considered "moot and academic", according to Lambino.
"ABS-CBN is a news media agency. Hindi lang naman Vice Ganda 'yung pinapanood natin. Nung pumutok 'yung Taal, ABS-CBN lamang ang channel na weekend, kahit madaling araw, nandoon po kayo. Doon po kami kumukuha ng impormasyon," she said.
"Di ko ma-imagine ang isang mundo na walang ABS-CBN. 'Yun lang gusto ko sabihin...I can’t imagine a world without ABS-CBN."
On the other hand, the Supreme Court may also prioritize the case, according to Atty. Soledad Mawis, dean of Lyceum of the Philippines' College of Law.
Congress, however, has the "sole power" to decide on the renewal of the network's franchise, she said.
"Ang issue sa Supreme Court (ay) hindi kung itutuloy ang franchise. Ang issue na nakabinbin sa Supreme Court eh sinasabing meron hong nagawang violation ang kompanya sa existing franchise niya," she said.
(The issue at the Supreme Court is not about the franchise renewal. The issue is whether the company committed a violation in its existing franchise.)
"Congress will have to consider the past in able to act on the future."
UP College of Mass Communications Associate Dean Rachel Khan, meantime, questioned the timing of the Solicitor General's filing of a quo warranto petition.
"The timing is really bad. Also it’s one of the continuing attacks against media in general. That’s the worrying thing about this," she said.
"This is superfluous or really an intent to make sure whether or not ma-grant sila ng franchise ng Congress ay talagang maisasara nila ang ABS-CBN."
(This is superfluous or really an intent to make sure whether or not ABS-CBN is granted a franchise, they will shut it down.)