Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte may generally modify or revoke any order by executive agencies, but claimed such a discussion in connection with ABS-CBN's shutdown is "useless" because of the President's supposed hands-off stance on the issue.
"Yes, he may, because as chief executive and head of the executive department, all agencies and departments under the executive branch are under the control of the chief executive, of the President," Guevarra told CNN Philippines when asked if the President may reverse the National Telecommunications Commission's (NTC) cease and desist order against ABS-CBN.
"So he may modify, amend, recall, revoke any order or any decision that might have been rendered by his subordinates in the executive department. He has total control of the executive department as chief executive," he added.
When followed up, however, the Justice chief clarified in a subsequent text message to reporters that his statement was a "general proposition" but that he does not mean NTC decisions are appealable to the Office of the President (OP).
"It's useless to discuss this," he said. "The President has said that he will not interfere with the orders of the NTC."
Guevarra earlier said the NTC's cease and desist order against ABS-CBN may be appealed before a regional trial court or the Court of Appeals.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also said the OP has no appellate jurisdiction on the decisions of the NTC.
ABS-CBN signed off Tuesday evening, its first post-martial law shutdown, in compliance with the NTC order. Its cable news channel, ANC, remains on-air.
The commission issued the order despite saying in March that it will heed the Department of Justice's (DOJ) advice on the matter -- that broadcast entities may be given a provisional authority to operate past the expiration of their franchise pending congressional action on their application for renewal.
ABS-CBN's 25-year license expired on Monday, May 4.
Guevarra said the DOJ will maintain its stance regardless of the company involved.
"We never wavered in that position. As a matter of fact, I wish to emphasize that we will maintain that kind of position regardless of which broadcasting company is involved -- whether it's ABS-CBN, CNN Philippines, TV5 or GMA, we will adopt the same stance because we believe that there is a gap in the law," he said in the television interview.
"There is no law that actually exists at present that governs the rights and obligations of broadcast companies that have already been previously given a franchise and is only in the process of renewing it," he added.
Asked about Solicitor General Jose Calida's petition at the Supreme Court for the forfeiture of ABS-CBN's franchise, Guevarra said his opinion is that the case is now moot because the franchise in question has expired.
Roque, a lawyer, gave the same opinion.
“I think the quo warranto [petition] is on the remaining life of the franchise which obviously had become moot because the franchise had already expired,” he said in an interview on CNN Philippines.
On the eve of the franchise's expiration, Calida warned NTC officials that they could face graft charges should they give the broadcast giant a provisional authority to operate.
Malacañang said Wednesday that Calida did not influence the NTC. --with Virgil Lopez/KBK, GMA News