By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Grace Poe maintained that Congress still has the authority over the legislative franchise granted to broadcast company ABS-CBN despite the quo warranto petition filed by the government.
Solicitor-General Jose Calida on Monday asked the Supreme Court to cancel the congressional franchise of ABS-CBN and its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence Inc, for its “highly abusive practices” and alleged violation of the Constitution.
While pointing out that the quo warranto petition is a legal matter that should be resolved by the SC, Poe in her statement, said, “As the constitution mandates, the Senate’s jurisdiction over franchises remains despite the existence of the petition.”
The senator chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services which tackles franchises given to public utilities and media companies. She said she plans to discuss the franchise even with Calida’s petition.
“At any case, every franchise undergoes a public hearing and I intend to tackle these issues in a fair and a deliberative manner,” Poe said.
“I think this is not just an issue of franchise, but this is in a broader stroke, a concern for fair and sound business practice, press freedom, and jobs for all the employees of the television network,” she added.
Poe said she hopes that the High Court will decide on Calida’s petition “on the basis fairness and for the interest of the greatest number of people.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, on the other hand, was mum about Calida’s move as he believed that the ABS-CBN’s franchise would still be tackled by the Senate.
“Considering the possibility of the franchise reaching the Senate, I would rather reserve my opinion on the matter,” Sotto said in a text message sent to reporters.
When pressed on the possible effect of the quo warranto case on the franchise bills filed in Congress, he said “it’s prudent to not judge it” because “it might have an effect when we decide later should it reach us.”
The Senate will have to wait for the House of Representatives before it tackles any measures on the renewal of the ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise, granted in 1995, and set to expire on March 30. The Lower Chamber has not taken up the matter yet.
The quo warranto case finally came after President Duterte’s repeated vow to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’S franchise, for its supposed failure to air his 2016 presidential campaign advertisement despite paying the network for it.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President had nothing to do with the quo warranto petition, saying instead that it is part of the Solicitor General’s job.
Calida filed the same petition in 2018 to remove from office former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was critical of the Duterte administration.