All’s well that ends well between House, Calida

Rodante Marcoleta
Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta shows supporting documents as he clarifies his questions for ABS-CBN officials during the hearing of the Joint Committee on Legislative Franchises and Good Government and Public Accountability on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal at the plenary of the House of Representatives. Photo by VER NOVENO

IT seems that the bickering between the House of Representatives and Solicitor General Jose Calida on the issue of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation’s franchise renewal is a case of “all’s well that ends well” after the latter declared during a congressional hearing Monday that he is not “at loggerheads” with Congress.

“[I am] not at loggerheads with Congress,” Calida bared during the virtual joint hearing of the House committee on legislative franchises and the committee on good government and public accountability on ABS-CBN’s franchise via Zoom application. “I thank the Speaker (Alan Peter Cayetano) for according me leniency and inviting me again,” added Calida who skipped the first joint hearing last week. “I only cautioned NTC of its possible encroachment on the legislative power if it issues a provisional authority without a law authorizing such action,” said Calida. “I never mentioned the name of Speaker Cayetano and any congressman in my advisory letter to the NTC or in

any of my subsequent press releases.”

Before Calida spoke at the joint hearing, Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio

Sy-Alvarado, chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability, said the Solicitor General will have the opportunity to defend himself on why he should not be cited in contempt for advising the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against granting ABS-CBN a provisional franchise to operate.

“Magpapaliwanag si SolGen Calida ng kanyang pahayag kung bakit hindi natin siya dapat mai-contempt dahil sa kanilang pagpayo o sabi nga natin noong unang araw ay pag-bully sa NTC,” said Sy-Alvarado. The joint hearing was suspended until this Wednesday morning where the threat against Calida to cite him in contempt remains pending.

At the same time, Calida invoked the “principle of non-encroachment on the exclusive domain of judicial jurisdiction” and the “sub judice rule” pertaining to his pending cases against ABS-CBN Channel 2. Calida said 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.”

“I maintain this position and thus I am not allowed to answer any questions involving matters pending on the Supreme Court,” said Calida.

The joint panel will also require ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III to personally appear or join the videoconference this Wednesday to answer questions surrounding his citizenship.

Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the House committee on legislative franchises, ordered the secretariat to send an invitation to Lopez after Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta sought the ABS-CBN boss’ explanation.

“I ask this question because I saw the agenda and I think we will discuss the issue of citizenship. There are questions that are personal to him and I don’t think the lawyers present today will be able to answer these questions, particularly those questions that are personal to him,” said Marcoleta.

“I would not know how to deal with this if he’s not present. I’d like to believe that he should be (present), as a matter of courtesy to this House,” Marcoleta stressed.

"The issue of citizenship is not a simple matter. I hope the representatives of ABS-CBN would find in their heart the importance of being able to motivate him or convince him to be present," said Marcoleta. Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, chairman of the House committee on public accounts, agreed with Marcoleta that Lopez should directly answer the citizenship issue against him.

“That is correct, the issue of the honorable Marcoleta is not just a simple issue of financial or violations of certain laws,” said Defensor. “But it is the constitutional mandate that we have to fulfill as part of their franchise. I second the manifestation of the honorable Marcoleta,” Defensor added.

Earlier, the giant network said Lopez was born to Filipino parents, which makes him a Filipino citizen under the 1935 Constitution.

“He did not need to acquire Filipino citizenship because he never lost it nor renounced it. He was born in the US and under the US Constitution, he is also a US citizen,” ABS-CBN explained.