Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday said government lawyers' bid for the forfeiture of ABS-CBN Corporation's franchise was separate from the legislative process of granting its renewal.
"The filing of the petition for quo warranto seeking the forfeiture of ABS-CBN's franchise is independent of and separate from the legislative process of granting the renewal of the said franchise upon expiration of its term in March," Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
Solicitor General Jose Calida led the filing of a quo warranto petition - the same action he took to oust then-chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno - against the broadcast giant before the Supreme Court.
He alleged that the network had been operating a pay-per-view channel without the necessary permit from the government and that it issued Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners.
In response, ABS-CBN said it complied with the law and condemned Calida's "ill-timed" attempt.
The Office of the Solicitor General filed the petition just over a month before ABS-CBN's franchise was due to expire on March 30. Bills had been refiled in Congress to extend the franchise.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, one of the authors of pending bills seeking to renew the franchise for another 25 years, called Calida's petition an assault on press freedom.
President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly threatened not to renew the company's license to operate, but Malacañang on Monday denied he had any involvement in the quo warranto petition.
“The SolGen is constitutionally bound to institute any action against any transgressors of law and if a franchise holder is violating its franchise, then it is his [SolGen] duty to file a quo warranto,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters.
“Wala siyang [Duterte] pakialam doon.” — DVM, GMA News