SolGen's quo warranto vs ABS-CBN could set 'dangerous precedent': lawmaker


Posted at Feb 11 2020 11:07 AM

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MANILA - Granting the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General to void the franchise of ABS-CBN could set a "very dangerous precedent" since the Solicitor General could do the same to other networks, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

Speaking to ANC's Headstart, House Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel said the filing of the quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court has adverse effects on the impending hearings of the House of Representatives on the extension of ABS-CBN's franchise.

"The OSG has defined several violations of ABS-CBN. It should be Congress who should hear the merits of this franchise application whether they should be given the franchise or not,” he said.

"Ano pa ang silbi ng Kongreso? They have already taken the function. Dapat po ibalik ang pag grant ng prankisa sa ABS-CBN sa Kongreso. This has already usurped the function of Congress," he added.

Pimentel said they could invite the OSG as resource persons if they are objecting to the renewal of the network’s franchise.

“It should not be the Supreme Court who should hear this. Kami dapat ang makinig,” he said.

Solicitor General Jose Calida on Monday asked the SC to revoke the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc. citing supposed "abuses" in the franchise.

Pimentel, however, said the OSG's action is a very alarming development as it could set a "very dangerous precedent" if they become successful in closing down the network.

"This could embolden the OSG to file more kung may interes sila sa ibang mga company," he said.

He said the OSG's successful attempt at removing Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno probably inspired the SolGen to file a quo warranto petition against the network.

"Pero, if again this would become successful, what would prevent the OSG to again do this in the future?" he said.

The House of Representatives has yet to hear 11 bills seeking to renew the company's license to operate.

"Aside from the 11 bills filed for the renewal of the franchise, we also passed a resolution urging Congress to tackle or to start the deliberations on franchise," said Pimentel.

However, the representative of Surigao del Sur said there is still no date yet for the hearing on the matter.

"It is now in the court of the legislative franchise to schedule the hearing," he said.

ABS-CBN's franchise will expire on March 30. However, Pimentel said that once Congress resumes sessions on May 4, they could still hear the franchise.

The lawmaker also stressed that there could be a Constitutional crisis with the filing of the quo warranto petition in SC as this may cause conflict between the executive and the legislative branches of government.

"This is a hypothetical situation. What if the Congress decided to grant a franchise to ABS-CBN and then the Supreme Court decided to forfeit the franchise? Which will now prevail?" he said.

He said that it's highly possible that Congress would wait for the SC's decision on the matter.

"It might wait or it might not. It all depends on the leadership whether we tackle this bill or not," he said.

For Pimentel, shutting down ABS-CBN would impact the lives of millions of Filipinos and would be sending a message to the world that the Philippine government is curtailing press freedom.

"I believe in your slogan 'In the Service of the Filipino'. Aside from giving information, entertainment you have also your humanitarian activities," he said.

He shared that his province was one of ABS-CBN's beneficiaries when calamity struck their area before.

"It's not only a mass media company. But I believe it is a company that has a heart for the Filipinos." he said.