MANILA — The Philippine government’s top lawyer skipped Monday’s Senate inquiry on questions over ABS-CBN’s franchise, citing his pending petition lodged at the Supreme Court to close down the country’s largest media network.
“Considering that the issues to be discussed in the public hearing is sub judice (under judicial consideration), it is with much regret that I respectfully decline your invitation,” Solicitor General Jose Calida wrote Sen. Grace Poe’s public services committee.
Calida sought to invalidate the current franchise of ABS-CBN through a quo warranto petition filed at the high court last Feb. 10. Eight days later, he asked for the issuance of a gag order on the network and "parties and persons acting" on its behalf relating to issues raised in the quo warranto petition.
Calida’s absence avoided a face-off with ABS-CBN network executives, who responded to detailed allegations that the broadcast company and its telecommunications subsidiary, had violated the terms of their operating franchises.
Poe said she was not disappointed that Calida was a no-show in her hearing. But she said she would have asked him about the bases of his petition to revoke ABS-CBN’s franchise.
“The resource persons that we had were able to shed light on those questions, with or without the solicitor general present here,” she told reporters after the hearing.
Calida’s petition alleged, among others, that ABS-CBN violated the constitutional ban on foreign ownership in mass media by issuing Philippine Depository Receipts to foreigners, through its holding company.
Company executives told senators that the issuance of the financial instruments complied with law.
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