Quo warranto vs ABS-CBN also has ‘chilling effect’ on lawmakers — solon
MANILA, Philippines — A congressman on Monday says the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) against ABS-CBN might have a “chilling effect” not just on other media entities, but also on other lawmakers supportive of renewing the franchise of the media giant.
House Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel (Surigao) said the OSG’s move could lead to some lawmakers being afraid to speak up and express their support towards the franchise renewal.
“This could also be a clear signal to the congressmen who will be attending the hearings. Nakikita na nila na nag-file na ng case (They are seeing that a case has been filed) so those who would be in favor of the renewal, might change their mind or they could not speak up anymore because we know very well that the executive department is moving for the cancellation of the franchise,” Pimentel told reporters in Quezon City.
Pimentel cited the case of Maria Lourdes Sereno, whose quo warranto case also lobbed by the OSG resulted in her ouster as chief justice of the Supreme Court in 2018.
“‘Yung iba dyan, ang tingin ko matatakot, matatakot na magsalita yan (I think some of the lawmakers would be afraid to speak up) if they are in favor because the signal is very clear already and we know very well also that the quo warranto that was filed against Chief Justice Sereno also had clearance from the higher ups,” the House leader said.
Pimentel is one of the principal authors of House Resolution 639 filed in early January which called on the House committee on legislative franchise to report out a consolidated version of the eight pending bills proposing for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.
“We should always think — one of the problems of this country is unemployment. We could say that ABS-CBN is one of the companies that have a big amount of employees… Saan na mapupunta ito e problema na nga natin ang unemployment (Where would these workers go when we already have problems with unemployment)?” Pimentel said.
“Aside from the employees that will be affected, I think this is an affront to the freedom of the press. We are a democratic country,” he added.
Republic Act No. 3846 requires television and radio broadcasting companies to secure a franchise from the government before they are allowed to operate. It is Congress that will decide whether to extend the franchise to public utilities, such as the media.
But over a month before ABS-CBN’s franchise expires, the House committee on legislative franchise has yet to tackle the issue despite continuous calls from a number of congressmen.
Quo warranto petition
Solicitor General Jose Calida said that the petition was filed in order to stop the supposed “abusive practices” of the network.
In a statement, Calida said that ABS-CBN has been hiding behind an “elaborately crafted corporate veil” and allowing foreign investors to take part in the ownership of the network which s a violation of Section 11, Article XVI of the Constitution.
Section 11, Article XVI of the Constitution states that: “The ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens.”
But Calida said that Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution “clearly” states that the power to grant or repeal franchises lies in Congress.
The lawmaker said that it should have been the Congress that heard the alleged violations committed by ABS-CBN and the pros and cons of renewing the franchise of the media giant.
“Now in this case, the action of Solicitor General Calida, in effect, usurps the power of Congress in granting and cancelling the franchises. It is now encroaching upon the powers of Congress,” Pimentel said.
With the move in place, Pimentel said that this could preempt the action of Congress on the issue.
“I just hope that the Supreme Court will really be sober in this matter and I hope, I pray that they will dismiss this quo warranto case kasi dapat ibalik ito sa Kongreso. Ang Kongreso dapat ang mag-decide niyan whether we should repeal it, we should approve it,” Pimentel said.
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