As protests continue against the Duterte administration’s move to revoke ABS-CBN’s franchise, Malacañang on Thursday, February 13 brushed it off as “much ado about nothing” since the media giant can apply for a new license to operate.
Earlier this week, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN Corp., which many journalists and advocates in the Philippines and internationally have called another attempt to suppress the freedom of press.
“You know, actually the filing of the petition is ‘much ado about nothing’ with respect to the opposition because if the quo warranto succeeds, then all that ABS-CBN can do is to apply for a new franchise. There’s nothing that would prevent them from applying again for a new franchise,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told ANC’s Early Edition.
According to Panelo, the reason why Calida filed the petition is because of “his constitutional duty.”
“If he does not, then he opens himself to criminal prosecution — of dereliction of duty… He cannot close his eyes to any violation regardless of the time,” Panelo noted.
Calida on Monday, February 10, filed a petition before the Supreme Court for the cancellation of ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise, alleging that the TV network reportedly violated rules set by Congress.
He accused the network of allowing foreigners to invest in its ownership, which violates Article XVI Section 11 of the Constitution that limits ownership and management of mass media only to Filipino citizens as well as “abusing the privilege” given by the State when it operated a pay-per-view channel (KBO Channel) in its ABS-CBN TV Plus cable product without a permit from the National Telecommunications Commission.
ABS-CBN, for its part, maintained that it has complied with all the laws governing its franchise and secured all government and regulatory approvals for its operations.
ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise is set to end on March 30.
Senator Grace Poe on Thursday, February 13, filed Senate Resolution 322, which seeks for a Senate probe on ABS-CBN’s franchise issues such as its regulatory compliance and alleged violations.
According to her, an investigation into the network giant’s franchise is anchored on Article 12, Section 11 of Philippine Constitution which states that “[N]o franchise, certificate, or any other form of authorization for the operation of a public utility shall be granted except to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations organized under the laws of the Philippines.”
Poe also pointed out that ABS-CBN’s franchise can be amended, altered, and repealed by Congress.
“ABS-CBN’s own franchise provides that it shall be subject to amendment, alteration or repeal by the Congress of the Philippines when the public interest so requires,” she said. “The power to amend, alter, or repeal is corollary to the power to review the compliance of a grantee with the terms and conditions of its franchise.”
“It is hereby resolved that the Senate Committee on Public Services should look into, in aid of legislation, on the operations of ABS-CBN Corporation to determine compliance with the terms and conditions of its franchise under Republic Act No. 7966,” she added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III welcomed Poe’s resolution as it would give ABS-CBN the opportunity to discuss and explain the allegations hurled against the network involving compliance with their franchise requirements.
The resolution would also help resolve the franchise issue when it reaches the Senate, he noted.