SC asked to void ABS-CBN franchise

February 10, 2020
ABS-CBN logo

THE Office of the Solicitor General yesterday asked the Supreme Court to nullify the franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc. 

In a “Very Urgent Omnibus Motion” which was personally filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, the OSG urged the high court to forfeit the franchises of ABS-CBN and ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc., saying “they are unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises.”

Also, the OSG stressed the petition was meant to stop the alleged “abusive practices” of ABS CBN. 

“We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers. These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years,” Calida said in a statement.

The ABS-CBN franchise is set to expire this March, and bills are pending before the Senate and House of Representatives to have it extended.

On numerous occasions, President Duterte threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, accusing the network of biased reporting and railing against its failure to air his political advertisement during the 2016 campaign.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the granting of a franchise to television and radio companies is a power lodged in Congress

International group Human Rights Watch decried President Duterte’s moves against the networking as a curtailment of press freedom. The group added that lawmakers should remain “independent” from the President’s whims.

Calida also accused the network of being under foreign ownership citing as basis for his claim the network’s Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) which were issued supposedly through ABS-CBN Holdings Corporation.

“The media giant has been hiding behind an elaborately crafted corporate veil and has been allowing foreign investors to take part in the ownership of a Philippine mass media entity,” Calida said.

Section 11, Article XVI of the Constitution provides that “The ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens.”

“This simply means that mass media companies operating in the Philippines must be 100 percent Filipino owned because they play an integral role in a nation’s economic, political, and socio-cultural landscape,” Calida said. 

The OSG claimed ABS-CBN also went beyond its mandate when it launched its TV Plus subscription service and the KBO Channel without approval from the National Telecommunications Commission.

“The legislative franchises of ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc., must be revoked. A franchise is a special privilege granted by the State, and should be restricted only to entities which faithfully adhere to our Constitution and laws,” Calida said.

Press freedom

The quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN is not an issue of press freedom, Malacañang said yesterday.

“Wala ngang koneksyon yung press freedom e,” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) slammed the Office of the Solicitor General’s (OSG) move, saying it tramples on the freedom of the press.

Panelo stressed those who oppose the OSG’s move should appeal to Congress instead of the President.

“Dapat makiusap sila sa Congress na i-renew yung lisensya. Ang Presidente, wala syang pakialam doon,” Panelo said.

Panelo earlier insisted that President Rodrigo Duterte had nothing to do with the OSG’s petition to revoke ABS-CBN’s franchise.

The spokesman did not mention the President’s repeated threats to shut down the network due to its supposed failure to air his presidential campaign advertisement in 2016.

With EMontano