Sat. Sep 18th, 2021

MANILA – Solicitor General Jose Calida has declined the invitation of the panel for him to attend the hearing on the renewal of the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN at the House of Representatives today, Tuesday.

Calida wrote Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the House Legislative Committee, a two-page letter where he cited the pending cases that he filed against ABS-CBN before the Supreme Court.

On top of this is the quo warranto case Calida filed last February against the giant network over alleged constitutional violations committed by the company.

In his letter, SolGen explained that under the existing principle of subjudice, he could not participate in the hearing set forth by the House committee as it would touch on the merits of the case.

It was also learned that the Office of the Solicitor General is also the statutory counsel of the National Telecommunications Commission which issued ABS-CBN a cease and desist order the network which the latter tried to delay its implementation by filing a temporary restraining order with the High Tribunal.

Said motion was turned down by the SC.

The House hearing was expected to touch on the proposals or House bills seeking to grant a fresh 25-year broadcast franchise to media network ABS-CBN, a lawmaker said Monday.

House legislative franchises committee vice-chair Jonathan Sy-Alvarado said the panel was to conduct Tuesday’s hearing in a “fair, impartial and comprehensive” manner by inviting several resource persons to discuss all issues for and against the network’s franchise application.

“Other than those who have a material stand for or against the franchise application, the Committee on Legislative Franchises shall also call several resource persons to shed light and provide a general overview of the issues,” Alvarado said.

In inviting Calida, Alvarado cited Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution and the House rules regarding the conduct of inquiries in aid of legislation, which states that “the filing or pendency of a case before any court, tribunal or quasi-judicial or administrative body shall not stop or abate any inquiry conducted to carry out a legislative purpose.”

“Just like the Members of Congress, I am sure our kababayans would like to hear — and they deserve to hear — what SolGen Calida has to say, instead of just reading or watching about it in the news,” Alvarado said.

Meanwhile, in a report earlier, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the deliberations by the committee will continue even during the congressional recess.

“They will not stop until they are finished so that no one can say we’re stopping the process or dragging our feet,” Cayetano said in a television interview.

Cayetano said the committee will most likely hold two to three hearings a week, noting that some witnesses and resource persons would be required to physically appear before the committee, provided safe physical distancing and other health protocols are observed.

He said that the panel would look into “no more than 10 issues” in relation to ABS-CBN’s proposed new franchise, including the network’s alleged violations of tax and labor laws, breaches of the terms and conditions of its previous broadcast privilege, and foreign equity issues. (ia/PNA)

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