Duterte no hand in quo warranto petition filed by SolGen vs ABS-CBN - Palace
President Rodrigo Duterte has no hand in the petition filed before the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Jose Calida to revoke the existing franchise of the television network, his spokesman said on Monday.
In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the Solicitor General 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 duty to file a petition for quo warranto," said Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel.
Rule 66 of the Rules of Court provides that a quo warranto is an "action for the usurpation of a public office, position or franchise" and may be commenced by a verified petition brought in the name of the Republic of the Philippines against "an association which acts as a corporation within the Philippines without being legally incorporated or without lawful authority so to act."
According to Calida, ABS-CBN Corp. and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., allowed foreign investors to take part in the ownership of a Philippine mass media entity, a prohibition under the Constitution.
He said that the legislative franchises granted to ABS-CBN and its subsidiary must be revoked.
He noted that a franchise is a special privilege granted by the State and should be restricted only to entities that faithfully adhere to the Philippine Constitution and its laws.
Asked if Duterte communicated with Calida prior to the filing of the quo warranto, Panelo said, "None that I know of. What I know of the President's style is, you want to do something in relation to your job, do it. Let the law take its course."
In his previous speeches, Duterte was very vocal about his opposition to renew ABS-CBN franchise, which will end in March.
There was even a point that he advised the owner of the television network to sell the company.
Duterte has been critical of the TV station after it supposedly "swindled" him by accepting payment from his campaign advertisement in the 2010 presidential elections but the company did not air it.
Several bills have been pending at the administration-controlled House of Representatives for the possible renewal of ABS-CBN franchise. However, it has not been moving in the House.
"Now with respect to the President's feelings to ABS-CBN, you must remember that there is a basis for his expression of displeasure. What? He was a victim of fraud. And when he expresses that, that expression falls within the freedom of expression which we cannot deprive a President of, given that all citizens are entitled too. But it doesn't mean nor has anything to do with the petition filed by the SolGen because that is the job of the SolGen. And if he doesn't do that then he will be charged with dereliction of duty," Panelo explained.
As to the renewal of the TV network's franchise, he said it would be up to Congress if it wants to act on it.
"Congress has the Constitutional authority to grant a franchise. But when you file a petition for a franchise to be withdrawn which is already been granted, it is not depriving Congress (of its right)," he explained, adding that ABS-CBN could just lobby before Congress for its renewal of franchise.
He also dismissed that Calida's action was an attack to press freedom.
He insisted that Calida was only doing his job.
It could be recalled Calida also filed a quo warranto petition against then Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was removed from her post in 2018. Celerina Monte/DMS