Senators wasted time debating on separation of powers over ABS-CBN franchise - Panelo

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2020 03:05 PM

Presidential Chief Legal Counsel and Spokesperson Salvador Panelo holds a press conference at the Sunset Business Hotel in Busan, South Korea on November 24, 2019. Robinson Niñal, Presidential Photo

MANILA - Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Monday that senators “wasted time” discussing on whether their inquiry into the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp violated separation of powers among branches of government.

Asserting his own position that there is no irregularity in holding the Senate hearing, Panelo, who is also President Rodrigo Duterte's chief legal counsel, said the lawmakers from the upper chamber of Congress should have settled the issue before actually conducting Monday's hearing.

“They spent two hours discussing whether they have the authority to do that or not. I can’t even understand. ‘Di pala kayo sigurado ng trabaho niyo, eh bakit pinagdedebatehan niyo pa?” Panelo told reporters in Malacañang when sought for comment on the hearing.

(You’re not sure about it, then why debate?)

“They wasted time discussing on something that they should have known at the very inception,” he added.

Senators Grace Poe, Francis Tolentino, Franklin Drilon, and Miguel Zubiri deliberated on the Senate’s authority to conduct the inquiry even as the House of Representatives has yet to act on several measures seeking a fresh 25-year license for ABS-CBN, and amid Solicitor General Jose Calida’s petition at the Supreme Court to invalidate the network’s current franchise.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has opposed the proceedings, while Calida asked the high court to issue a gag order relating to statements about the issues raised against ABS-CBN in the quo warranto petition.

The Senate inquiry tackled ABS-CBN's compliance with the terms and conditions of its current franchise which will expire on March 30, and its extension until Dec. 31, 2022, as proposed by Drilon, as the lower chamber deliberates on pending ABS-CBN franchise bills.

Panelo said the Senate is not violating any rule in holding the inquiry on ABS-CBN’s franchise since it is a separate branch of government.

“Yung sinasabi mo na baka sub judice? I don’t think so kasi separate branch naman sila,” Panelo said.

(I don't think so that it violates the sub judice rule because they are separate branches.)

“Trabaho nila yun (That’s their job). We will not interfere with their work…But certainly, they are not wasting time discussing the subject matter,” he added.

At the hearing, Poe asserted the Senate’s right to conduct the inquiry on ABS-CBN’s franchise, saying "we need to know the truth and we need the public to hear it.”

“Naninidigan ang Senado sa kapangyarihan nito bilang kapantay na sangay ng gobyerno... Sa isang republika at demokrasya, kailangan natin panatilihin ang balance at separation of powers," Poe said.

(The Senate stands by its authority as a co-equal branch of government... In a republic and a democracy, we need to maintain balance and separation of powers.)

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