Duterte ABS-CBN veto ‘can be overturned’
MANILA, Philippines — The renewal of television network ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise is entirely up to Congress, which could even overturn a presidential veto, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Wednesday.
“(W)hen it comes to the franchise, it is only Congress that could grant it. Even if Mr. Duterte vetoes the grant, Congress could overrule the veto,” Panelo said amid outrage over Solicitor General Jose Calida’s filing of a quo warranto petition for the revocation of the network’s franchise before the Supreme Court on Monday.
Panelo maintained that President Duterte believes in “let(ting) the law take its course.”
Should the Supreme Court grant Calida’s quo warranto petition, the network could always apply for a new franchise, he added.
ABS-CBN’s existing franchise lapses on March 30.
Panelo said Duterte’s earlier threat of “see(ing) to it that you’re out” addressed to network executives was “just a statement of displeasure because of what ABS-CBN did to him. (I)t has nothing to do with (Calida’s) petition for quo warranto,” Panelo said, referring to Mr. Duterte’s complaint that the network did not air his political ads during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Panelo also advised members of the House of Representatives tasked by law to approve the franchise to “ignore” the President’s “statement of displeasure” against ABS-CBN.
Act of solidarity
The Malacañang Press Corps issued a statement on Wednesday saying it “firmly advocates respect for press freedom as an act of solidarity with ABS-CBN.”
Other organizations trained their guns on Calida, with the Justice and Court Reporters Association (Jucra) calling out his on-camera censure of ABS-CBN court reporter Mike Navallo for his allegedly biased stories.
“We believe such veiled threats to reporters, especially when coming from a government official, have no space in a democracy,” the Jucra statement read.
The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation called Calida’s move “a parasitic assault” and warned that his “abuse (of) the quo warranto remedy despite the fact that Congress retains the power to review broadcasting franchises, only underscores the grave threat this petition poses to our fundamental freedoms and our democratic processes.”
Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares also accused the Office of the Solicitor General of transforming the office into a “biased institution … being used to exact revenge on behalf of President Duterte.”
For its part, the University of Santo Tomas journalism faculty issued a statement comparing Calida’s petition to a “virus inflicted upon citizens” and warned of “pandemic consequences.”
—With reports from Donza Z. Pazzibugan, Jhesset O. Enano, Melvin Gascon and Nikka G. Valenzuela
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