CEBU

Espinoza: Clash of views

Free Zone

THE filing of the petition for quo warranto against giant broadcasting network ABS-CBN before the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Jose Calida failed to drown the problem on the 2019 coronavirus that originated in Wuhan City, China, found to cause death and has some virus carriers in the country.

But what’s consoling to the management of ABS-CBN is that some, congressmen and senators, differ from the legal action that the solicitor general took for the cancellation of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise before it will end next month. Some legal luminaries even criticized Calida for taking a wrong remedy and venue against ABS-CBN.

To recall, Solicitor General Calida succeeded in his petition for quo warranto against former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno wherein majority of the members of the magistrate booted out Sereno, an appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III. It’s this thought, perhaps, that the solicitor general believes he could replicate his action.

In his petition, Calida stated that ABS-CBN engaged in “highly abusive practices” that went against the Constitution, such as letting foreigners own and control the network through Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) and creating KBO, a new channel without approval. But ABS-CBN denied they violated the laws of the land.

Some lawmakers in the Lower House have filed measures for the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN. Nueva Ecija Rep. Micaela S. Violago filed House Bill 676, while in the Senate Sen. Ralph C. Recto filed Senate Bill 981 for the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.

On ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, House Speaker Allan Cayetano was not timid to publicly admit his issues against the network about the 2016 national elections where he ran but lost as candidate for vice president for then Davao mayor and presidential contender Rodrigo Duterte, who also had an issue against the network for not allegedly airing his election ads.

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman along with other lawmakers condemned the filing of the quo warranto petition by the solicitor general. Lagman said, “the petition preempts or usurps the sole authority of Congress to extend or not an existing and expiring franchise like that of ABS-CBN Corporation.”

There is an apparent clash of views between the executive and the legislative on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN. President Duterte, in his public statements, sometimes in jest, said that it’s better for ABS-CBN to sell its company than apply for its renewal, hence the rumors that Dennis Uy, a businessman from Davao City, offered to buy the network. But most legislators want ABS-CBN’s franchise renewed for another 25 years.

The quo warranto petition has stirred reactions from different sectors, particularly the Human Rights Watch who decried the move to block the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN. It said: “These actions are part of a broader crackdown on media outlets and civil society groups that dare criticize him.” They called on the lawmakers to be independent from the President’s whims.

The solicitor general can argue that there is no politics in his petition. But it would seem that the opposite is true to what he said. Vice President Leni Robredo even called the petition “abuse of power.” The petition has a chilling effect on freedom of the press.

The “freedom of speech is at stake here,” said the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). They called on Congress and the Supreme Court to once and for all prove to the people that they are truly, as the Constitution envisions, independent and co-equal branches of government that are not at the beck and call of the executive.

The NUJP has started the protest actions calling the threats against ABS-CBN “an affront to press freedom and freedom of expression.”


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