'It is his duty': Panelo defends Calida petition vs ABS-CBN
MANILA, Philippines – After Solicitor General Jose Calida moved to void the franchise of the Philippines' biggest network, ABS-CBN, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo defended Calida, saying his efforts to do so are only part of his job as the government's lawyer.
Calida on Monday, February 10, filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN at the Supreme Court (SC), only over a month before the network's franchise expires on March 30.
"The SolGen is constitutionally bound to institute any action against any transgressions of law. And if a franchise holder is violating its franchise then it is his duty to file a petition of quo warranto," Panelo told reporters in a press briefing at Malacañang on Monday.
What case? Calida asked the SC to nullify the franchises of ABS-CBN and ABS-CBN Convergence, "as they are unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises."
Calida also accused the broadcast giant of a form of foreign ownership, citing the network's Philippine Depositary Receipts.
The House of Representatives, which has been sitting on several bills that aim to renew ABS-CBN's franchise, said they were considering deferring committee hearings in light of Calida's petition.
Duterte involvement? Asked if the President had talked to Calida about wanting ABS-CBN shut down, Panelo said he "did not know" of any such communication. The presidential spokesperson denied Duterte was involved in the filing of the quo warranto petition.
"The President has nothing to do with this. Definitely nothing to do," Panelo said.
Duterte, however, has repeatedly threatened that ABS-CBN would lose its franchise. He has accused the network of "swindling" him for supposedly not airing his paid political advertisements during his campaign for the presidency.
"Ang iyong franchise mag-end next year. If you expect ma-renew 'yan, I'm sorry. I will see to it that you're out (Your franchise will end next year. If you expect it to be renewed, I'm sorry. I will see to it that you're out)," Duterte said last December.
For Panelo, it is within Duterte's rights to convey "his expression of displeasure," since there is freedom of speech.
"[But] it doesn't mean nor does it have anything to do with the petition filed by the Solicitor General because that is the job of the SolGen, and if he does not do that, then he will be charged with dereliction of duty," Panelo said.
Panelo went on to say that ABS-CBN's franchise is a legislative matter in Congress and a legal matter now before the Supreme Court – not an issue of press freedom.
"Walang koneksyon 'yung press freedom (It is not connected to press freedom)," he claimed, as journalists and human rights advocates slammed Calida's petition.
Any bill renewing the network's franchise will require the President's signature. – Rappler.com