SolGen can go to SC when ABS-CBN’s franchise expires to stop its operations

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Senate Minority Leader Franklon Drilon has  warned that Solicitor General Jose Calida can petition  the Supreme Court to stop media giant  ABS-CBN from further broadcasting  with the expiration of its franchise on March 31, 2020.  

Drilon said Calida can block the television network if it will continue to air beyond the expiration date.

This was the reason why he filed a joint resolution to extend the franchise of the media giant.  

“I filed this resolution in order to give Congress time to review. It is not for ABS-CBN, it is for Congress to have time to review the very serious allegations raised by the Solicitor General in the Supreme Court, which cannot be tackled in the remaining time,” said Drilon.  

Drilon also said there’s no more time to tackle the franchise renewal.  

Drilon said Congress has only seven session days and by the time they come back in May, the franchise has  already expired.

The Senator also dismissed the claims of some House members that  ABS-CBN won’t stop operating and will extend its said operations up to July 2022.

“No. That is a view expressed by politicians or lawmakers on the floors both of the Senate and the House of Representatives,”  said Drilon.

He cited a Supreme Court ruling which states that a franchisee cannot anymore operate as a broadcast station if there is no longer a franchise.

“Of course there is this view but you are taking the risk that the Supreme Court will rule otherwise as it has ruled in some cases,” said Drilon.

“I am just saying that I do not want to risk the livelihood of 11,000 ABS-CBN employees on a theory that ABS-CBN and its 11,000 workers can continue after March 30 without a franchise,” said Drilon as he noted that once enacted, the Senate joint resolution has the effect and force of a law and it must be approved by the President.  

Asked if he was optimistic that the Lower House  will even act on a Senate-initiated resolution, Drilon expressed hope that the congressmen will have a conscience that would  bother them if 11,000 employees would lose their job.

At the same time, the Senate leader strongly belied he is playing politics by proposing a three-year extension.  “I say that if trying to save the jobs of 11,000 employees is politics, then I admit I am playing politics. I do not think that’s the motive. I think we should not attribute motive to fellow legislators,” he said.

The Senate will not  hold a session on Monday to give way to the hearing of the ABS-CBN franchise by the Senate public aervices committee chaired by Senator Grace Poe.

According to Drilon, the hearing is relevant to have inputs while the issue on the franchise is pending in the House of Representatives (HoR).  

“We cannot wait for the HoR to transmit it to us before we can decide. At least we have inputs but we will not report out the committee report until we receive something from the HoR,” he said.

Furthermore, the former justice secretary said the “sub judice rule” does not  apply to them because it is clear that it  is applicable to court.

In Congress, he explained that legislative hearings are not supposed to decide who is right or wrong.  

“We are having our hearings in aid of legislation to assist us as to how to act on a particular matter in the exercise of our oversight functions. As decided by the Supreme Court, no court has the authority to prohibit the Committee from requiring respondent to appear and testify before it,” said  Drilon.

He reiterated that Congress is the proper venue and has the jurisdiction in the renewal of franchise.

Whether  or not the ABS-CBN has violated the terms of its franchise,  would have to be passed upon by Congress because they are in the process of renewing it.

“In other words, if we find a violation, then we don’t renew. Also, the franchise is expiring on March 30 and the Supreme Court would not be able to rule on this by then, then it will become moot and academic,” said Drilon./ Stacy Ang 

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