'Usurping the power of Congress': Lawmakers question quo warranto plea vs ABS-CBN

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 10 2020 11:15 AM | Updated as of Feb 10 2020 12:16 PM

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MANILA — The Philippine government's top lawyer "usurped" an exclusive power of Congress when he asked the Supreme Court to revoke ABS-CBN Corp's franchise, a lawmaker said Monday. 

Solicitor General Jose Calida accused ABS-CBN of violating provisions of its 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.

Congress has the exclusive power to grant or cancel any franchise, Deputy House Speaker Johnny Pimentel said. 

"In effect, OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) is already usurping the power of Congress. Congress has not yet even decided whether to renew or cancel the franchise," he told ANC. 

The media outlet's alleged violations "should be tackled during the hearing" of its franchise renewal by Congress, said the lawmaker. 

"The quo warranto has preempted the actions of Congress," Pimentel said. 

"I hope that the Supreme Court will dismiss this case," he added. 

Duterte's ally, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, also called Calida's move as "an unwarranted approach on the exclusive power of Congress to grant, cancel or renew franchises" and "a direct assault on freedom of the press." 

"This violates the co-equal branch, a disrespect of the executive on the legislative," he said in a separate ANC interview. 
 
TIME FOR FRANCHISE HEARINGS? 

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There is enough time for Congress to tackle the media outlet's franchise before going on break on March 14, said Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones. 

"Mahigit 11,000 [ang] empleyado ng ABS-CBN na mangangamba na magkakaroon pa ba sila ng trabaho. Maraming umaasa sa kanila. Tayo ay naniniwala na talagang uusad pa ito dito sa amin sa Kongreso," she told DZMM. 

(There are more than 11,000 ABS-CBN employees worrying if they will still have jobs. They have families to support. We believe that the franchise renewal will move here in Congress.) 

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"Many" senators are "willing to hear" the bills involving ABS-CBN, said Sen. Grace Poe, who also said that franchises are "the prerogative, mandate of the Congress." 

Poe said she hoped the Supreme Court would exercise "fairness in any of the cases they try" and that it would consider "what service this franchise provides for the good of the public." 

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman meanwhile noted that the Supreme Court is "not a trier of facts" and the alleged violations by ABS-CBN News "involves factual questions." 
 
Senate President Vicente Sotto said it was "not prudent to not judge" the quo warranto petition as it "might have an effect" when lawmakers discuss the franchise renewal.