Ex-DICT chief: Quo warranto vs ABS-CBN 'ought to be dismissed'


Posted at Mar 03 2020 11:47 AM | Updated as of Mar 03 2020 11:59 AM

MANILA - A former head of the Department of Information and Communications Technology on Tuesday said that the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General against media giant ABS-CBN should be dismissed, citing that the network is operating on a valid franchise.

"Because precisely the petition filed does not fit into the concept of a petition for quo warranto under Rule 66 because ABS-CBN was not usurping any franchise. Because it is operating on its own valid franchise, there is no valid petition for quo warranto and therefore it ought to be dismissed," Atty. Rodolfo Salalima, former DICT chief, said in an interview on ANC's Headstart. 

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Salalima said the petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida before the Supreme Court involves intricate questions of fact.

"[The Supreme Court] should inhibit itself because it is not a trier of facts. But the least it can do is for the Supreme Court to remand the petition for quo warranto to the RTC (Regional Trial Court) of Quezon City which has jurisdiction over the principal office of ABS-CBN or before the Court of Appeals," Salalima said.

Calida is asking the high court to nullify the license of ABS-CBN, accusing the network of several violations including breach of a constitutional restriction against foreign ownership of media firms.

ABS-CBN executives, however, refuted Calida's allegations during a Senate inquiry.
ABS-CBN Corp President and CEO Carlo Katigbak said in the Senate hearing that at the time of issuance, its holding firm's Philippine Depository Receipts complied with existing laws.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also said ABS-CBN's broadcast franchise authorized the network to introduce the pay-per-view feature or the Kapamilya Box Office offering which allows subscribers to view specific set of movies for a fee of P30.

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Meanwhile, Salalima also said the ABS-CBN should continue to operate even after its franchise expires, as Congress cannot shut it down without giving it due process.

Salalima explained that a franchise is a privilege granted by the State. 

"But once that privilege, that franchise is granted, and the franchise holder infuses resources or investments say, in terms of capital expenses, machineries or in terms of operating expenses like payment for the salaries of its employees, the franchise as a mere privilege granted by the State becomes a vested constitutional property right which the State cannot just set aside, revoked or stopped without due process of law," said Salalima.

He pointed out that due process is required when the operation of a television station is closed or curtailed.

Salalima added that House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano's pronouncement that ABS-CBN will continue to operate pending a hearing on its franchise renewal is an added assurance.

"The hearing before the Lower House is a good enough feeling to afford ABS-CBN due process. Therefore pending, ABS-CBN is given its right to due process of law to advance evidence on why its franchise should be renewed. Its franchise cannot be closed or revoked," he said.

Cayetano earlier said that ABS-CBN franchise bills will be tackled after Congress resumes sessions in May, saying these measures are "not that urgent."

Last week, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises asked the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue the media giant a provisional permit to operate past its franchise expiration on May 4.

Salalima also believes that ABS-CBN issues are intertwined with freedom of expression.

"There is an interlink. But in kindness and in good faith, I am not going to say that there is an intent on government to stifle freedom of expression by providing that chilling effect on ABS-CBN for it to be careful in airing its news on air," Salalima said.

On Monday, Cayetano denied that the delay in deliberating ABS-CBN's franchise renewal bills was meant to put the company under the control of politicians.

"But the practical effect is that there is a chilling effect. There is in effect a stifling of the freedom of expression. And that freedom of expression is important because it is enshrined in our Bill of Rights, but more important it is part of Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights," he said.