ABS-CBN given 5 days to comment on gag order plea

THE Office of the Solicitor General on Tuesday, February 18, asked the Supreme Court to prohibit television network ABS-CBN, its reporters and contract artists from discussing the quo warranto petition.

The Supreme Court en banc subsequently ordered ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence to respond within five days to Solicitor General Jose Calida's plea.

"Now in accordance with the due process requirement of the law, the Supreme Court has ordered the respondents ABS-CBN Corp and ABS-CBN Convergence to file their respective comments to the motion filed by Office of Solicitor General within a non-extendible period of 5 days of notice," Supreme Court spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said in a press conference Tuesday.

"After ma-file ng ABS-CBN 'yan, the court will decide on the matter," he added.

At the House of Representatives, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman urged House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to direct the committee on legislative franchises to start deliberations on the 11 pending bills seeking to renew the ABS-CBN franchise.

Lagman said Cayetano, who earlier said the House will not tackle these 11 bills until May 2020, must allow lawmakers to cast their respective conscience votes on the renewal.

"If Speaker Cayetano has personal grievances against ABS-CBN or objections against the renewal of the network's franchise, he can vote against the renewal--but Cayetano must perforce direct the committee on legislative franchises to deliberate on the 11 pending bills proposing the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise and report out its recommendation for plenary discussion," Lagman said in a statement Tuesday, February 18, 2020.

Lagman issued the statement after receiving reports that members of the House of Representatives are being asked to withdraw their support for a measure urging the committee on legislative franchises to immediately act on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.

“Verified reports show that House leaders have been asking signatories to withdraw their support to Resolution no. 639,” Lagman said.

House Resolution no. 639 urges the committee on legislative franchises to report without further delay on a consolidated bill on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.

The resolution, which seeks to value press freedom is "corollary to the people's right to information and the decimation of press freedom amounts to the demise of the people's right to know,"

Cayetano earlier said Congress is committed to hold fair hearings on the bills at the "appropriate time."

"To put this into proper perspective, let me remind everyone that the ABS-CBN Franchise Bill was first filed in September 2014, during the 16th Congress under the Aquino administration," Cayetano had said.

"Now with the 18th Congress barely eight months in, and with the urgent rehabilitation of Marawi, the deadly spread of the Covid-2019, the eruption of Taal, the earthquakes in Mindanao, and so many other issues facing the nation, certain interests want us to set aside so many important, essential and urgent legislative work to give way for a highly divisive franchise issue," he had added.

Cayetano had stressed that the issue with ABS-CBN is not related to free speech or freedom of the press.

"On the matter of press freedom and the need for a congressional franchise to operate, let me be clear. If the network was a purely online content provider, or a traditional printed newspaper they would not even need a franchise from the government to operate. This clearly shows that this matter has not, nor has it ever been, purely an issue of free speech or freedom of the press," Cayetano said.

He added that the TV network has taken biases during its 2010 and 2016 election coverages. "Can anyone honestly say, after watching the coverage of the network during the 2010 and 2016 elections, that ABS-CBN did not take sides and favor any candidate? Or that personalities and politicians who through the years have had strong affinity with the station do not receive undue advantage during campaign season?" (Jove Moya/SunStar Philippines)


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