Poe moves ABS-CBN hearing to earlier date, ahead of possible gag order

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate committee on public services has set its hearing on the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise earlier than scheduled.

Senator Grace Poe (Senator Grace Poe's Official Facebook Page / MANILA BULLETIN) Senator Grace Poe (Senator Grace Poe's Official Facebook Page / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Grace Poe on Wednesday told media that the public services panel's discussion on the embattled broadcast network's franchise was moved to Monday (Feb. 24). It was initially set for Feb. 27.

The rescheduling of the franchise renewal hearing came following efforts from Solicitor General Jose Calida to bar ABS-CBN and its representatives from speaking or issuing statements related to the quo warranto petition he filed in the Supreme Court last week.

Poe earlier told reporters she planned to move the Senate hearing to an earlier date before a gag order is released by the high court.

"Alam mo, ginagawan nila ng paraan para huwag magsalita ‘yung ating mga resource persons, eh papaano naman kami magkakaroon ng maayos na pagdinig. So siyempre kailangan din kami gumawa ng hakbang para naman maprotektahan din ang aming layunin dito,” she said in an ambush interview on Tuesday (Feb.18).

(You know, they are finding ways so that our resource persons will not be able to speak about the issue, but how are we going to conduct a proper hearing? So of course we have to take steps to protect our intention here.)

The public services committee chair said the Senate hearing aims to shed light on the allegations hurled at ABS-CBN and its compliance with its 25-year franchise. This would also be considered in their decision to renew the network's congressional permit after the House of Representatives has forwarded the franchise bill to the Upper Chamber.

Poe gave the assurance that the Senate will protect the resource persons from lawsuits that may arise from statements made in the legislative inquiry.

Aside from ABS-CBN's franchise, the Poe-led committee will also tackle the franchises of six other broadcast companies.