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ABS-CBN can apply for another franchise even if SC favors quo warranto – Panelo

By Genalyn Kabiling

ABS-CBN television network can apply for another franchise to operate even if the Supreme Court (SC) favors the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General against the media entity, a Palace official said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

According to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, the filing of the quo warranto petition is “much ado about nothing” since the television station could reapply for a franchise.

“If the franchise is revoked by reason of the petition of quo warranto, then ABS-CBN can again apply for a new franchise. Congress will have to resolve it,” he said over ANC television Thursday.

He maintained that the government petition against the television network was an “independent move” by Solicitor General Jose Calida. “The President does not interfere with any department unless there is a complaint of corruption,” he said.

The Office of the Solicitor General recently asked the SC to nullify the network’s franchise over alleged violations of the law, including the constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of local media.

The Lopez-owned media conglomerate asserted that Calida’s petition was “without merit,” insisting that it has not violated the law. “ABS-CBN complies with all pertinent laws governing its franchise and has secured all necessary government and regulatory approvals for its business operations,” the network said in a recent statement.

The television station’s franchise is set to expire this March. Bills seeking to renew its franchise remained pending in the House of Representatives.

Panelo said Congress has the authority to grant or renew legislative franchise to the broadcast network despite the President’s “displeasure” with the media company.

He explained that the President merely voiced his sentiment for paying for a campaign advertisement that was not aired by the network. He said Duterte’s displeasure falls within the freedom of expression.

But he has denied allegations that the President was pressuring his allies in Congress to block the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.

Last Wednesday, the President said that while the Constitution guarantees press freedom, the government would not tolerate any abuse of the broadcast privilege of media entities in the country. He assured the local media of equal protection of right but reminded them that the broadcast function is a privilege granted by the government.

In recent months, Duterte has openly threatened to block the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN for supposedly swindling him of his advertisement money. He also vowed to go after the Lopez-owned company and six other firms that have debts with the state-run Development Bank of the Philippines.

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