MANILA—Solicitor General Jose Calida on Monday sought to shut down ABS-CBN Corp using a quo warranto petition, the legal weapon of choice he once used against a sitting chief justice 2 years ago.
Like in the removal of Maria Lourdes Sereno from the Supreme Court, Calida’s latest petition has also raised questions on whether it could be used to question a media network’s supposed franchise violations.
Is the Supreme Court the proper venue to question a broadcast company’s legislative franchise? Can a quo warranto petition be used to revoke a franchise?
A quo warranto petition is a legal remedy to remove a person who has no legal authority to hold a “public office, position or franchise.”
It can also apply to an association acting as a corporation in the Philippines “without being legally incorporated or without lawful authority so to act.”
But ABS-CBN clearly has a “lawful authority” when its franchise was granted and supposed violations should be raised elsewhere, not in the Supreme Court, said lawyer Tony La Viña, who teaches constitutional law.
“The Supreme Court should just dismiss this on the basis that it is the wrong venue, wrong first venue to deal with these issues,” he told ABS-CBN News, noting that the high court does not try facts.
Calida’s allegation that ABS-CBN violated the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership by issuing Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) should be raised before the Securities and Exchange Commission, said La Viña.
Questions over pay-per-view operations should be discussed with the National Telecommunications Commission, he said.
“The Supreme Court is not the right venue here,” he said adding that all complaints about ABS-CBN’s franchise may be tackled at the House of Representatives.
In a statement, ABS-CBN said Calida’s allegations were “without merit.”
The media company “complies with all pertinent laws governing its franchise and has secured all necessary government and regulatory approvals for its business operations,” it said.
“Everything we do is in accordance with the law. We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN,” the company said.
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, one of at least 11 congressmen who filed bills to extend ABS-CBN’s franchise, described Calida’s petition as an “unconstitutional encroachment” on the “exclusive power of Congress to grant, cancel, and renew franchises.”
“The executive now, through the solicitor general, would like to have this power,” the congressman, a former law school dean, told ABS-CBN News.
“It should be dismissed outright.”
But beyond the legal issues, Calida’s petition is “a clear curtailment” if freedom of expression, said journalist Vergel Santos, former chairman of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.
Santos said efforts to put ABS-CBN out of business pointed to President Rodrigo Duterte’s “personal case” against the media company.
“The glaring fact is the President has always threatened to do this to ABS-CBN and threatened to do this, citing his own case in which he was supposed to have been unfairly treated,” he said.
“That to me is clear indication that this is a personal case and therefore, Mr. Calida should not even touch this, him being the primary, as the facts show, enforcer of this president.”
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN News.