MANILA - Malacañang denied Wednesday that Solicitor General Jose Calida had pushed regulators to shutter ABS-CBN Corp. over its stalled license renewal, which drew fresh accusations that the authorities were cracking down on press freedom.
Calida over the weekend warned the National Telecommunications Commission against allowing the country's biggest media network to operate while lawmakers deferred tackling the bills to renew its franchise, which expired Monday.
“Hindi po nag-influence si Calida. Sumulat po siya in due course of his job. He is within his perfect right to write," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told state-run channel PTV-4.
(Calida did not influence the decision. He just wrote to the NTC in due course of his job.)
The NTC earlier said the network will be allowed to operate until 2022. However, the agency's cease-and-desist order on Tuesday cited the franchise expiration and said ABS-CBN would have to appeal for a return to the airwaves.
NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba had served several administrations, noted Roque.
"Walang pupuwedeng magsabi na nadidiktahan itong si Chaiman Cordoba," he said.
(No one can say that Chairman Cordoba can be dictated upon.)
Congress, where proposals to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN has languished for 3 years, holds "primary and exclusive jurisdiction" over renewing the license to operate of media outlets, said Roque.
ABS-CBN can also challenge NTC's cease-and-desist order before the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court, he said.
The Office of the President cannot handle the network's appeal because the NTC has "complete independence" as a quasi-judicial body.
Aside from franchise delays, ABS-CBN is facing a quo warranto challenge lodged before the Supreme Court by Calida. The government's lead lawyer is seeking to nullify ABS-CBN's current franchise due to alleged abuses like illegal pay-per-view offering and foreign ownership.
The network, which reaches millions of Filipinos through its television, radio and online platforms, said it did not violate the law in its 65 years of service.