Calida: ‘I am not at loggerheads with Congress’ over ABS-CBN shutdown
MANILA, Philippines – After blaming lawmakers for the closure of ABS-CBN nearly a month ago, Solicitor General Jose Calida faced them on Monday, June 1, and said he had nothing against them.
The Solicitor General appeared for the first time in a congressional hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise on Monday at the House of Representatives. He had instigated a two-pronged attack on ABS-CBN: via a Supreme Court petition and a written warning to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
When the NTC heeded his warning by closing down ABS-CBN, Calida said the public should blame Congress – not him – for it.
In his statement, Calida defended his letter to the NTC that warned the agency against granting ABS-CBN a temporary permit to operate given the pending franchise bills in the House. The NTC used this as basis for its May 5 cease and desist order against the media giant.
“I am not at loggerheads with Congress. I only cautioned NTC of its possible encroachment on the legislative power if it issues a provisional authority without a law authorizing such action,” Calida said. “I never mentioned the name of Speaker [Alan Peter] Cayetano and any congressman in my advisory letter to NTC or in any of my subsequent press releases,” the Solicitor General added.
The NTC's move following Calida's warning was a turnaround from the commission's previous commitment in March before the House committee on legislative franchises that it would grant the network a provisional authority to operate. (READ: NTC: Granting ABS-CBN temporary permit an 'encroachment' on Congress’ power)
When ABS-CBN went off-air, Cayetano and the House took much of the heat from critics. This was because the lower chamber – where all franchise bills should emanate from – had dragged its feet in deliberating on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal bills.
Calida then issued a statement saying Filipinos only have Congress to blame for the shutdown, prompting Cayetano to warn that “there will be a reckoning” for the Solicitor General and the NTC.
House committee on public accounts chair Mike Defensor already filed a resolution calling for probe into the alleged “conspiracy” between Calida and the NTC to shut down ABS-CBN.
Before the shutdown, Calida filed a quo warranto petition against the network with the Supreme Court, accusing the network of unlawfully exercising its franchise by allegedly offering paid broadcast without government approval, and by supposedly allowing foreign ownership of the corporation.
The Solicitor General repeated the same accusations in his opening statement during the joint House hearing of the committees on legislative franchises as well as good government and public accountability on Monday.
But he said he cannot be asked about issues directly involving his quo warranto case against ABS-CBN during the House hearings. “In view of this nature as grant form state a legislative franchise is not a right that can be exercised at will and pleasure. Rather it is a privilege subject to regulation under such recognition as the government may see fit,” Calida said.
“In cases of misuse... or abuse of the franchise, the State ought to reassert its authority and rise as a grantor, regardless of the grantees’ identity and influence,” he added.
The House panels dedicated Monday’s hearing for the opening statements of lawmakers, ABS-CBN’s executives, Calida, and the NTC, which took roughly 4 hours.
Former ABS-CBN employees turned congresswomen vouched for their former network, appealing to their colleagues to grant a franchise to the network to protect its 11,000 workers. (READ: Representatives Vilma Santos, Loren Legarda defend ABS-CBN: Network ‘went above and beyond’ duty)
Interpellations are scheduled to be held during the next hearing on Wednesday, June 3. –Rappler.com