Calida shows ‘aversion’ to press freedom in ABS-CBN franchise issue – Zarate
MANILA, Philippines —House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate denounced on Sunday Solicitor General Jose Calida’s warning to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against issuing a provisional authority to the country’s biggest media network.
Calida earlier warned NTC commissioners that they could face charges under the country’s anti-graft and corruption laws should they grant ABS-CBN provisional authority in the absence of a franchise.
The government’s chief lawyer said the NTC could not rely on the letter of the House leadership and the Senate resolution — both urging the commission to grant a provisional authority to ABS-CBN while its franchise approval remained pending in Congress.
But Zarate, a Bayan Muna party-list representative, “strongly” urged the NTC to grant the provisional authority to ABS-CBN immediately, saying it has “all the legal and historical grounds to do so.”
“SolGen Calida’s statement only shows his severe aversion for press freedom as he even timed such a threat on World Press Freedom Day,” Zarate said in a statement.
He said NTC would lose its autonomy should it heed Calida’s warning.
“The NTC being the principal and client is not absolutely bound by the SolGen’s legal opinion, much more of threats. Kowtowing to Calida’s threats means a goodbye NTC’s autonomy, a goodbye to press freedom,” the lawmaker said.
“Then, only the ones who do not question the anti-democratic and anti-people policies of the administration will remain, just like the time of the dictator Marcos,” he added.
Zarate further said Calida failed to consider that ABS-CBN “is very important in the information dissemination and relief operations” as the country grapples with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Even in the midst of crisis, it appears, continued political vendetta against the network is still primordial to the OSG,” he said.
“We again strongly urge the NTC to rise to the challenge and issue the provisional permit to ABS-CBN now even as the House is deliberating the renewal of its franchise,” he added.
On Feb. 11, Calida sought the revocation of ABS-CBN’s franchise over alleged violations through a quo warranto petition filed before the Supreme Court
Calida, in his petition, claimed that ABS-CBN violated the Constitution when it issued Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) through ABS-CBN Holdings Corp. to foreigners.
He also accused the network of “broadcasting for a fee” when it operated a pay-per-view channel — KBO Channel — in its ABS-CBN TV Plus cable product without approval or permit from the NTC.
ABS-CBN has since maintained that it did not violate any law governing its franchise and that it had secured all necessary approvals for its business operations.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.