Feb 13, 2020 @ 14:57

Committee to Protect Journalists urges Calida to withdraw quo warranto vs ABS-CBN

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Solicitor General Jose Calida to withdraw the quo warranto petition which was filed Monday seeking to nullify the franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc. before the Supreme Court.

“Solicitor General Jose Calida should withdraw his legal threat against ABS-CBN, and refrain from any action that puts undue pressure on the news broadcaster’s franchise renewal,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative.

“The timing, tone, and content of this legal complaint makes it clear that this is not an administrative disagreement, but a political persecution, “Crispin continued, adding the Duterte administration should stop harassing media organizations.

In a “Very Urgent Omnibus Motion” which was personally filed by 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 this extended.

On numerous occasions, President Duterte threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, accusing the network of biased reporting and riling 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 blocking the franchise renewal, taking it as a curtailment of press freedom. The group added that lawmakers should remain “independent” from the President’s whims.

At the same time, Calida 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,” he added.

Furthermore, 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.

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