Mon. Aug 2nd, 2021

MANILA — Several senators on Tuesday expressed optimism that the Supreme Court will not include the Senate in a gag order sought by the Office of the Solicitor General regarding the case of ABS-CBN Corporation.

In an interview, Senator Grace Poe said she is “confident” that the SC will look fairly into the motion and will respect the mandate of the Senate as a co-equal branch of government.

“We do not want to preempt the court, but past decisions and jurisprudence showed that the Supreme Court sided with the Senate to continue with its legislative hearings,” she said.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services also said her panel will continue with the scheduled hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise, as the gag order sought by the OSG has just been filed and has yet to be decided upon by the SC.

“Tuloy pa rin ang mga pagdinig, wala naman dahilan para itigil natin (The hearings will continue, there is no reason for us to stop it),” Poe said.

But in the event that the Supreme Court decides to issue a gag order that will include the legislative hearings and the resource persons, Poe said the Senate can only appeal the decision to clarify the basis of the decision.

“If that happens, members of the Senate need to meet and discuss what will be our next move. We respect the SC, but we also want to know the reasons,” she said.

In a separate interview, Senator Sonny Angara said the Constitution clearly states that the power to grant franchises rests with the Legislative branch, and so it cannot be stopped from fulfilling its mandate.

Angara, who is also a lawyer, however, said in his opinion, a gag order is usually on certain topics but cannot be applied to the totality of the issue, which is the granting of a franchise.

“Kung mag-issue ang korte dyan, sasabihin nila, ‘ito ang hindi puwedeng pag-usapan. Ito ang issue ng kaso, hindi yan puwedeng pag-usapan (If the court issues a gag order, they will say what topics could not be discussed. This is the issue of the case, this cannot be discussed),” he said.

“Pero yung issue ng whether to grant a franchise or not, hindi puwedeng i-gag ang Kongreso dyan (But on the issue whether to grant a franchise or not, Congress cannot be gagged on that),” Angara said.

On the other hand, Senator Panfilo Lacson said while the Senate is exempted from the sub judice rule, he warned that resource persons invited in the planned committee hearings may be covered.

“They are not exempt from the sub judice rule, which covers litigants and witnesses, members of the bar and the public in general. Thus, they may run the risk of being cited for contempt once they express their opinions that might pose a clear and present danger in the administration of justice by directly influencing the members of the Court in rendering their votes to resolve the pending petition for quo warranto,” Lacson said in a statement.

Earlier, Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the Supreme Court to issue a gag order prohibiting the parties from discussing the merits of the quo warranto petition that his office filed against ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc.

In filing the motion, Calida alleged that ABS-CBN “engaged in propaganda, in a clear attempt to elicit public sympathy, sway public opinion, and, ultimately, to influence the resolution of the case.”

ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary were given five days to comment on the motion.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Public Services is set to hear on February 27 bills concerning the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN Corporation. (iam/sovereignph.com/PNA)

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