MANILA — Solicitor General Jose Calida appeared before a congressional inquiry Monday, taunting shuttered broadcast network ABS-CBN that “the end is near” while rebuking one of its biggest stars for criticizing him over the company's shutdown.
Calida told a joint committee hearing that he could not discuss his pending case against ABS-CBN before the Supreme Court, citing the sub judice rule and his push for a gag order on all parties involved.
Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, who chairs the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, reminded Calida that the hearing was in aid of legislation and that congressmen were instructed to steer clear from violating the sub judice rule.
“I am not allowed to answer any questions involving matters pending before the Supreme Court,” Calida said.
But he outlined ABS-CBN’s alleged violations of its old franchise just the same, such as the issuance of an investment instrument that supposedly went against the country’s foreign ownership restrictions in mass media.
Calida likened his move to shut down the network to his previous efforts to have Sen. Leila De Lima detained on drug charges, and remove Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through a quo warranto petition, the same mode by which he sought to take ABS-CBN off the air.
“We championed this fight for the rule of law in the likes of the Sereno and De Lima cases, both filed and won before the Supreme Court,” he told the hearing of bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a new 25-year franchise.
“Bakit pa kami titigil ngayon? Responsibilidad naming ipagpatuloy ang labang ito, hindi para sa aming sarili, kundi para sa sambayanang Pilipino.”
(Why should we stop now? It's our responsibility to continue the fight, not for ourselves but for the Filipino people.)
Calida filed a quo warranto petition in February against the largest media network in the Philippines, seeking the revocation of its previous franchise.
The high court is yet to rule on the petition petition, which some legal experts said might have been mooted when the franchise expired last May 4 and the broadcast was shut down the following day.
Calida showed up via Zoom before the committees on legislative franchises and good government, which had warned that he might be cited for contempt for missing the initial hearing last week.
Part of the agenda was a resolution seeking to investigate the National Telecommunications Commission for issuing a cease-and-desist order on ABS-CBN last May 5 without due process.
The inquiry would also look into Calida’s letter which supposedly pressured the NTC into shutting down ABS-CBN, despite committing in March to keep the network on the air while Congress deliberates on its franchise application.
“I am not at loggerheads with Congress. I only cautioned the NTC of its possible encroachment on legislative power if it issued a provisional authority,” Calida said.
Calida also went after ABS-CBN actor Coco Martin who criticized him over ABS-CBN’s shutdown.
“If I had not been the solicitor general, I would have called his bluff and made him eat his words!” he said.
Calida alleged that ABS-CBN “has been deceiving the Filipino people” for decades and “has committed too many violations which went unnoticed and unpunished.”
He cited the issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs), in supposed violation of the constitution, which requires full Filipino ownership in mass media.
ABS-CBN earlier insisted that the PDRs were compliant with the law.
Calida also questioned ABS-CBN’s pay-per-view feature in its digital black box, which was allowed under the terms of its franchise, according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.