ABS-CBN franchise hearing: House panel chiefs warn Calida he may be held in contempt

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 26 2020 02:09 PM | Updated as of May 26 2020 03:54 PM

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MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Solicitor General Jose Calida, who had challenged ABS-CBN Corp before the high court and regulators, should attend the House committee hearings and explain why he should not be held in contempt, the chiefs of two House committees said Tuesday. 

The government's chief lawyer skipped Tuesday's hearing on bills seeking a fresh 25-year franchise for the network and cited the "sub judice" rule, which restricts comments that might influence the court. 

"The Solgen being absent in this hearing should be enjoined to attend future hearings and explain his side on why should he not be held in contempt," said Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, chairman of the House committee on Good Government. 

House committee on legislative franchises chairman Franz Alvarez directed the secretaries of his and Sy-Alvarado's panels to write Calida "enjoining them to attend our succeeding hearings." 

"Otherwise, we will resort to compulsory processes," he warned.

The National Telecommunications Office (NTC) in March told lawmakers it would let the country's top broadcaster operate provisionally beyond the May 4 expiration of its license, while bills for its franchise renewal were still pending in Congress. 

However, Calida warned NTC officials that they could face graft charges if they gave ABS-CBN a provisional permit. The regulator on May 5 forced ABS-CBN off air due to its expired license. 

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"Such act of NTC due to the influence of Solicitor General is a total disregard to the lawful order and authority of the House of Representatives" that has sole authority over franchises, said Sy-Alvarado, reading from a resolution by Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor.

Defensor, chairman of the House public trust committee, earlier said the NTC and Calida should be investigated for possible perjury, graft, violation of the code of conduct for public officials. 

"We will give sufficient opportunity to NTC and SolGen for them to be heard," said Sy-Alvarado. 

"We will ask them to give their side bago natin masabi kung tunay nga bang may contempt na naganap laban sa komite na ito, laban sa dignidad ng buong House of the People at kung may criminal cases bang dapat isampa laban sa kanila o wala," he added. 

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano appealed to his colleagues to give Calida "leniency" and invite him in the next committee hearing.

"Yun lang po sa’kin, appeal na muli nating imbitahin, bigyan ng pagkakataon ang SolGen Claida na ma-present ang kaniyang nalikom na impormasyon. If this was the budget hearing he cannot absent himself," he said.

Cayetano, however, said Calida cannot invoke the sub judice rule to skip the House deliberations.

"If you will claim the constitutional right against testifying against yourself, right of privacy, if you’re going to claim sub judice or any other legal defense…you have to be here," he said.

"You cannot absent yourself then make those claims. You have to be here, make those claims, and then the committee will determine whether tama yung legal excuse na binigay mo o hindi (the legal excuse you gave is correct)."

Calida in February asked the Supreme Court to nullify ABS-CBN's franchise due to alleged legal issues like foreign ownership and illegal pay-per-view. The country's largest media and entertainment company has denied Calida's allegations in various fora. 

The Solicitor General last week denied that he meddled with the NTC's decision. 

news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp. ​
 

-- With a report from Zandro Ochona, ABS-CBN News