Executive should not ‘hijack’ Congress mandate over franchises – Hontiveros
MANILA, Philippines — The executive should not “hijack” the mandate of Congress to act on legislative franchises, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said after the filing of a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN which she said could bring forth “dangerous” implications on press freedom.
Earlier Monday, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court seeking to forfeit ABS-CBN’s franchise.
Solicitor General Jose Calida told reporters that the case was filed in order to stop the supposed “abusive practices” of the network.
“Here in the Senate or in the whole of Congress, there are still a lot of advocates of press freedom, and we will not give up that mandate, that responsibility to hear and decide on the issue of franchises in mass media,” Hontiveros said in Filipino in an interview on Monday.
“Whether or not ABS-CBN violated the terms of their franchise, the right body to tackle this is Congress and the executive should not try to hijack this through the judiciary,” she added.
While Malacañang denied that the President had anything to do with the quo warranto petition filed by Calida, Hontiveros said the solicitor general may be “granting the wish” of the chief executive.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly threatened to block the franchise renewal of the television giant after what he claimed was unfair treatment of him during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Well, the President has been vocal — threatening, warning ABS-CBN that their franchise will not be renewed. So it’s not hard to think that, because the solicitor general is the legal counsel of the government and the Office of the President, that he may just be granting the wish of the President,” she said.
‘Very challenged democracy’
On the other hand, the senator underscored the importance of press freedom on the survival of the country’s “very challenged” democracy.
“The filing of the Office of the Solicitor General of a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN really has dangerous implications. We know that in any democracy, in a modern democracy, a free press is not our enemy,” Hontiveros said.
“Media is not an enemy. A free press is an important check and balance against any abuse of any part of the government, and it helps our very challenged democracy survive,” she added.
Power of Congress over franchises
Hontiveros said a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate could be filed to assert the power of Congress power over legislative franchises.
“It’s frustrating that in the past few years that we had to assert, from time to time, the Senate’s mandate — whether on the franchise issue, on issues relating to foreign affairs, treaty matters, or for example, on voting separately during special session on important issues like the imposition of martial in Mindanao, for example,” she said.
“It’s frustrating. But it’s necessary when you have an executive branch of government that from time to time is overreaching,” she went on. “As part of the legislative, we need to say that the separate and co-equal branches of government should be maintained to ensure checks and balances. That’s what we are also expecting from the judiciary.”
According to Hontiveros, the Senate minority bloc is monitoring the progress of the ABS-CBN franchise and its implications on the Philippine mass media.
If ABS-CBN’s franchise is not granted, the country’s largest network would have to close down its TV and radio operations by March 30, 2020.
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