Calida hails House for doing ‘job well’ on ABS-CBN franchise bid
MANILA, Philippines — Hailing the House committee that voted to kill the franchise application of ABS-CBN, Solicitor General Jose Calida on Saturday paraphrased the opening line of one of Frank Sinatra’s most popular songs, telling the network: “And now, the end has come.”
Calida, who had filed a quo warranto case against the media giant in the Supreme Court, said a legislative franchise “is a privilege, not a right.” It was a line also repeated by the House franchise committee, which voted 70-11 on Friday to reject the network’s franchise application.
“Congress has ascertained that ABS-CBN is unworthy of a legislative franchise, and its decision must be accorded respect. … Congress has done its duty under the Constitution, and by its action, the rule of law has been upheld,” he said.
“Through the committee, the Congress has spoken, and the nation is all-ears,” he added.
Calida pointed out that the franchise application was publicly discussed by House members, ABS-CBN’s executives and lawyers and resource persons from various government agencies such as the Department of Justice, Bureau of Immigration, Securities and Exchange Commission and Philippine Economic Zone Authority.
The solicitor general said the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise did not restrain freedom of expression or of the press “because the primordial effect of such denial is the upholding of the constitutional provision and laws governing media companies like ABS-CBN.”
He recalled that ABS-CBN’s violations first came to the public’s attention when he filed a petition for quo warranto on Feb. 10 in the Supreme Court to forfeit the legislative franchises of ABS-CBN Corp. and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc.
The quo warranto suit accused ABS-CBN of broadcasting for a fee, which is beyond its franchise, and of abusing the privilege granted by the state when it launched and operated the pay-per-view KBO Channel on its TV Plus digital box without approval or permit from the government.
ABS-CBN also allegedly issued Philippine depositary receipts to foreigners, in violation of the foreign ownership restriction on mass media by the Constitution, according to the petition.
The court later dismissed Calida’s petition after the franchise expired on May 4, but the House committee affirmed his allegations.
Calida also twitted ABS-CBN and its executives for what he described as adopting incongruous positions when they insisted that only Congress could withdraw a franchise.
The network said a legislative franchise was a “a political question that is beyond the purview of judicial review.”
But on Friday, the committee “answered this political question in a resounding and categorical fashion: ABS-CBN is not entitled to a renewed legislative franchise,” Calida said.
“Congress has done its job well. … Justice has been served,” he said.
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