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Calida maintains he can't answer questions involving ABS-CBN franchise issue pending before SC

Solicitor General Jose Calida on Monday maintained that he could not answer any question during the joint panel hearings at the House of Representatives involving matters on the ABS-CBN franchise issue pending before the Supreme Court.

Calida participated via teleconferencing in the joint hearing of the House committee on legislative franchises and on good government and public accountability on the ABS-CBN franchise issue after he skipped the hearing last week.

He reiterated, however, that there are legal principles that prevent him from fully participating in the hearing, namely the principle on non-encroachment on the exclusive domain of juridical jurisdiction and the sub judice rule.

"The sub judice rule restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to the judicial proceedings in order to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court, or obstructing the administration of justice," Calida said.

"The same rule was likewise used by the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) in declining the previous invites from various committees in the Senate and in the House where the expired franchise of ABS-CBN and its renewal are being discussed," he added.

Currently, there are two pending cases before the Supreme Court involving the broadcast operations of ABS-CBN, namely the quo warranto petition against network which Calida himself filed, and the petition for certiorari filed by the network against the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

Calida said a motion has been filed before the Supreme Court related to the quo warranto petition vs. ABS-CBN wherein the Republic, which he represents, requested for the issuance of an order prohibiting the parties from releasing statements discussing the merits of the quo warranto petition.

"I maintain this position, and thus I am not allowed to answer any questions involving matters pending before the Supreme Court," he said.

"I must tread lightly to avoid violating the sub judice rule. A violation of the sub judice rule may [make] one liable for indirect contempt," he added.

Calida also said that he may be violating the Code of Professional Responsibility by his mere presence in hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise issue.

"The OSG represents the NTC in the cases earlier mentioned. As with all lawyers, as SolGen, I am bound by the Code of Professional Responsibility, which obligate me to observe candor, fairness, and loyalty to my client; to keep fidelity to my client's cause; and to preserve the confidence of my client," he said.

Calida noted, however, that his appearance on the joint hearing of the House is "without prejudice to prohibitory rules."

"I come here to heed the Speaker's [Alan Peter Cayetano] call last May 11, 2020 — 'as a fellow lawyer and government worker, we should be working together and not trying to bring each other down,'" he said.

Cayetano, in the May 26 joint hearing of the House panels, asked his colleagues to be lenient to Calida and allow him to speak before the body.

"[It is] very clear that the champion of exposing the alleged violations of ABS-CBN is Solicitor General. That doesn't exclude the other champions who are here today and other oppositors who have been interviewed on specific alleged violations. But si SolGen ang nakapag-put together nung allegations, nung proof, nung ebidensya, nung witnesses," Cayetano said.

"[Let's] extend him the courtesy na makapagprepare din siya ng opening statement but at least a summary on the allegations sa ABS so that to be fair to our executives from ABS-CBN at sa kanilang mga empleyado na masagot naman nila punto por punto," he added.

The joint House panels began hearing the bills seeking to grant another 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN after the House leadership decided to drop the measure that would supposedly give the network a provisional franchise until October 31, 2020.

Cayetano, himself an author of the provisional franchise bill, has said the issue on the ABS-CBN franchise has already become "so divisive" and is taking up the time even as there are more pressing matters to discuss such as that of COVID-19 response measures.

He, however, vowed to have a fair and comprehensive hearings on the issue on the committee level.—AOL, GMA News