MANILA - The House of Representatives should have cited in contempt the National Telecommunications Commission for skipping last week's inquiry into ABS-CBN's bid for a franchise renewal, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution said Monday.
The NTC and the Office of the Solicitor General had invoked the sub judice rule, which restricts comments that might influence the court, due to a pending quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court.
The sub judice rule is not applicable as the Congress has "a right to conduct its hearings," according to lawyer Christian Monsod.
"That’s a very lame excuse because the NTC testified in Congress and he’ll only be asked about that testimony in Congress. That’s a proper point of inquiry by Congress," he told ANC.
"I was wondering why Congress did not do that. They should have (cited NTC in contempt) for refusing to answer questions on the ground of sub judice," he added when asked if the agency should have been held in contempt.
The NTC, in the joint committee hearing, said it did not intend to cause any "confusion" when it issued a shutdown order against ABS-CBN Corp. despite previously committing to allow its continued operations beyond its lapsed franchise.
The NTC earlier said issuing a provisional permit to ABS-CBN would have "encroached" on Congress' exclusive power over legislative franchises.
It also said the OSG had warned the telecoms body that it might face criminal liabilities for allowing ABS-CBN to continue broadcasting. The NTC made the explanation after lawmakers warned it might face contempt.
Solicitor General cannot preempt Congress
Solicitor General Jose Calida had "preempted" Congress by questioning ABS-CBN's franchise before the high court, Monsod said.
"Let’s assume that he is sincere in what he’s doing, but he cannot preempt Congress. That’s where he’s wrong, by filing a quo warranto and then going to Congress and saying I cannot answer questions because there’s a pending case in the Supreme Court," he said.
"If there is a violation of sub judice rule, I think Congress should continue and it’s up to the Supreme Court to tell Congress it’s sub judice and I’m sure the Supreme Court will not do that."
The high court has ordered the telecoms body and both chambers of Congress to respond to ABS-CBN's petition against the NTC's cease-and-desist order.
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