Monday, January 20, 2020

Palace: Quo warranto plea to revoke ABS-CBN franchise won't end in constitutional crisis

Malacañang Sunday disputed the claim that there would be a constitutional crisis if the Supreme Court decides to cancel the franchise of television network ABS-CBN because of a petition filed by state lawyers.

Previous reports claimed that the Office of the Solicitor General would file a quo warranto petition asking the Supreme Court to revoke the franchise of broadcast giant. The reports surfaced weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte, who had accused ABS-CBN of biased reporting and swindling, vowed to block the renewal of the network's franchise, which will expire in March. Media groups have condemned the supposed plan to seek the revocation of the franchise, calling it a threat to press freedom. Last Saturday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson warned that a quo warranto petition against the Lopez-owned network's franchise could lead to a "constitutional crisis" because the power to renew legislative franchises lies with Congress.

But presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo disagreed, saying the renewal of franchise and running after the violations of its terms and conditions are two different things. "There is none. Why would there be a constitutional crisis?" Panelo said in a radio interview.

"The franchise coming from Congress is different from the violations of the (terms and conditions of the) franchise... Both can independently be taken together," he added.

Panelo insisted that the OSG has the responsibility to run after those who broke the law. "With due respect to my good friend Senator Lacson, he's not a lawyer. He should have consulted the matter with his lawyers first. The (Solicitor General) has the duty to file cases against those who violated the law," he added.

Panelo also revealed that the supposed unpaid taxes of the Lopez family, the owners of ABS-CBN, is one of the grounds for the filing of the case against the network's franchise. When reminded that ABS-CBN already has compromise agreements with the tax bureau, Panelo said the deals did not happen during the presidency of Duterte.

"Kasi kung nangyari 'yan sa mga nakaraan ibig sabihin may na namang mga sabwatan diyan (If it happened in the past then there was conspiracy involved)," the Palace spokesman said. Duterte has accused ABS-CBN of swindling for allegedly refusing to return the money he paid for campaign commercials even if the advertisements did not air. He has also claimed that the Lopez family has debts with the state-run Development Bank of the Philippines. Research by revealed that ABS-CBN and its units have entered into four compromise agreements with the tax bureau since 2018, all of them approved by the Court of Tax Appeals.