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Lawmaker: Quo warranto petition vs. ABS-CBN an assault on press freedom

The quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida seeking to revoke the franchise to operate of broadcasting company ABS-CBN and its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence is an assault on press freedom, Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez said on Monday.

Rodriguez is one of the authors of pending bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise for another 25 years.

Rodriguez was referring to Calida's move to ask the Supreme Court to nullify the ABS-CBN’s franchise on the following allegations:

  • foreign ownership in violation of the Constitution by issuing Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners;
  • broadcasting for a fee and operating a pay-per-view channel in ABS-CBN TV Plus, the KBO Channel, without prior approval or permit from the National Telecommunications Commission; and
  • subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc.'s "resorting to an ingenious corporate layering scheme to transfer its franchise without the necessary Congressional approval, among others."

“The quo warranto complaint is an assault on the constitutional mandate of press freedom [as provided for by] Section 4, Article 3 of the Charter,” Rodriguez said.

Article 3, Section 4 of Philippine Constitution reads "no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances."

ABS-CBN’s franchise is set to expire on March 30.

Likewise, Rodriguez said that Calida’s move violates another constitutional provision: the separation of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

“The filing by the Solicitor General of the quo warranto against ABS-CBN is an unconstitutional encroachment of the exclusive power of Congress to grant franchises, subject to amendment, alteration or repeal by Congress when the common good so requires (Section 11, Article 12 of the Constitution),” Rodriguez said.

“The Executive, through the solicitor general, cannot initiate franchise cancellation, a power belonging to Congress,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly threatened to block ABS-CBN's franchise renewal, but Malacañang denies he is behind the Solicitor General's petition against the broadcast network.  — BM, GMA News