By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
Solicitor General Jose Calida’s upcoming quo warranto case vs. broadcast giant ABS-CBN would be seen as “government’s harassment” and “a clear assault on press freedom,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez made the remarks as Calida is reportedly set to question before the Supreme Court (SC) anytime the supposed handover of the Kapamilya network to the Lopezes during the Aquino administration in 1986, which he believed was void from the beginning.
According to Rodriguez, it will not be only seen “as government’s harassment of ABS-CBN,” but also a “clear assault on press freedom as enshrined in our Constitution.”
Rodriguez, vice chair of the House committee of justice also warned that the upcoming action of Calida “will likewise encroach on the powers of the legislative branch and will violate the constitutional doctrine of the separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.”
Under the 1987 Constitution, the grant of franchises to broadcasting entities is lodged exclusively in the House and the Senate.
“The solicitor general cannot frustrate and remove such power by filing a quo warranto case. Furthermore, bills, including Bill 5705, have been filed in the House extending the ABS-CBN franchise. Let congress do its job by hearings these bills,” said Rodriguez.
He said the proper forum for Calida is to file a complaint instead before the House committee on legislative franchises and not before the high tribunal.
Rodrguez stressed that if Calida pushes through with his plan, he would be “disrespecting and denying due courtesy to Congress.”
Rodriguez also cited Section 9, Rule 66 of the Rules of Court, that a respondent in quo warranto proceedings will be ousted and/or excluded from holding or exercising a franchise only “if he is usurping, intruding into or unlawfully holding/exercising a francise,”—which is not the case of ABS-CBN according to the former San Sebastian Law School dean.
“ABS-CBN is a holder of a valid franchise,” he said.
ABS-CBN needs to secure the passage of their congressional franchise on or before March 30, 2020—the expiration date set by its current franchise under Republic Act No. 7966—or the network will have to cease operating as a broadcast network if Congress fails to act on the franchise bill.
Under Republic Act No. 3846, radio and television broadcast stations are required to seek a franchise from Congress before being allowed to operate.
House committee of public accounts chair Mike Defensor earlier stressed that “the OSG by filing a petition to revoke the ABS -CBN franchise is a clear signal that the executive opposes the extension of the franchise of the network.”