Panelo backs Calida's legal tack on ABS-CBN franchise

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 12 2020 07:11 PM | Updated as of Feb 12 2020 08:04 PM

MANILA- The Supreme Court (SC) is the proper avenue for resolving questions on the current franchise of ABS-CBN Corp. which the government’s top lawyer has sought to invalidate, President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel said on Wednesday.

Sec. Salvador Panelo, also the presidential spokesperson, agreed with Solicitor General (SolGen) Jose Calida’s move to file a “quo warranto” petition against ABS-CBN before the high tribunal, saying the high court is the proper venue to settle the issue. 

ABS-CBN's 25-year franchise was granted by Congress in March 1995 and will expire next month. Eleven bills have been filed in the lower House calling for a renewal of the broadcast franchise. 

“Yes, eh kasi may violation. Kasi di ba ang sinasabi dun, the SolGen can file a petition of quo warranto if the holder is unlawfully holding that franchise,” Panelo said in response to a query on whether it is right to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

“Under the Constitution, the Supreme Court can act on any controversy when it involves grave abuse of discretion or whatever, andun eh, pasok lahat sa Supreme Court,” he added.

Calida on Monday asked the high court to revoke ABS-CBN's franchise due to alleged "abuses" like pay-per-view (PPV) operation and violation of the constitutional ban against foreign ownership.

Calida's move was criticized by lawyer Tony La Viña, who teaches constitutional law at the University of the Philippines, saying the issue should have been brought up with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), not the Supreme Court.

On the issue of foreign ownership, the SEC, according to La Viña, is the only body that can determine whether ABS-CBN allowed foreign investors to have a say in its decisions. 

Meanwhile, pay-per-view operations are not covered by franchise, but rather, the permits for these that are under the jurisdiction of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), he said.

“Those legal experts are experts not on that particular issue. They’re wrong there,” Panelo said.

A congressman allied with President Duterte also disapproved of Calida’s move as he argued that the government’s top lawyer should have filed his complaint against the broadcast network before the House of Representatives, which has yet to hear the bills seeking to renew its license to operate.

"The Constitution has given the power of franchises to Congress. Solicitor General (Jose) Calida is wrong in usurping the power of Congress by trying to go to the Supreme Court," Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.

The Supreme Court has ordered ABS-CBN to comment on the Solicitor General’s petition. The media firm has insisted that it "did not violate any law."

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