Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

MANILA – Solicitor General Jose Calida on Monday emphasized that he is not “at loggerheads” with Congress regarding the controversial franchise renewal issue of broadcast network ABS-CBN.

He made the statement during a House hearing after he was accused of “meddling with Congress” when he advised the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) not to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority that will allow the network to broadcast despite its expired franchise.

“I am not at loggerheads with Congress. In my letter to the NTC, I only cautioned the NTC of its possible encroachment on the legislative power if it issues a provisional authority without a law authorizing such action,” he said. “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.”

On May 5, the NTC issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN despite its earlier commitment to grant the network a provisional authority to operate while the franchise application is pending in Congress.

Calida, however, maintained that he could not answer any question during the House hearings regarding any matters on the ABS-CBN franchise pending before the Supreme Court.

He cited the legal principles on non-encroachment on the exclusive domain of juridical jurisdiction and the sub judice rule as reasons that prevent him from fully participating in the hearings.

Two cases are presently pending before the SC involving the broadcasting operations of ABS-CBN. These are quo warranto petition filed by Calida, and the petition certiorari and prohibition against NTC.

“Lest I be misconstrued of favoring the House over the Senate, my appearance today is without prejudice to prohibitory rules,” Calida said. “I come here to heed the Speaker’s (Alan Peter Cayetano) call last May 11, 2020 — ‘as a fellow lawyer and government worker, we should be working together and not trying to bring each other down.”

Calida has declined to attend the previous House hearing, as well as the other Senate hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise.

During the same hearing, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said the “insurmountable constitutional and legal obstacles” prevented the agency from issuing a provisional authority to ABS-CBN.

Cordoba also said granting ABS-CBN a provisional authority would have amounted to an “encroachment” of Congress’ exclusive power to grant, deny, extend, revoke, or modify broadcast franchises.

“It is for this reason that the NTC has ultimately determined that the only rational and legal opinion available to it is to exercise restraint and enforce the letter of the existing laws on the matter,” he said. (PNA)

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