For all the bashing that he is getting lately, there is no denying Solicitor General Jose Calida is a rock star in his own right.
Going by Urban Dictionary’s definition of a rock star, Calida’s success is not measured by what he has accomplished, but by the opposition he has encountered and the courage with which he has maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.
In short, he is a person who always delivers the goods. As most rock stars do, Calida downplays his success because he doesn’t like the attention. He simply delivers consistent results.
That is why we don’t find it surprising that lawyers of ABS-CBN are falling all over the place trying to find ways of how best to counter the quo warranto petition Calida filed on the broadcast giant.
A quo warranto is a legal term for a writ (order) used to challenge another’s right to either public or corporate office or challenge the legality of a corporation’s charter. Under Rule 66 of the Rules of Court, a quo warranto petition may be filed by the government or an individual against “a person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise.”
We have seen how it worked in the ouster of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. We might see it again in the case of ABS-CBN.
All of a sudden, attention has shifted to the quo warranto case before the Supreme Court rather than the rejection of the broadcast giant’s legislative franchise in Congress.
Is this an indication that the so-called Kapamilya network has given up on its drive for renewal and is now more alarmed at the repercussions of the quo warranto case?
Calida, through a quo warranto petition, has asked the Supreme Court to stop the operations of ABS-CBN supposedly due to violations in its franchise terms. This, while several bills are pending before the House Committee on Legislative franchises seeking to extend its life for another 25 years after 30 March this year.
In his petition, Calida claimed the network committed “highly abusive practices” in violation of the terms set by Congress when it approved ABS-CBN’s franchise in 1995. It allegedly set up the KBO channel and supposedly allowed foreign investors to control the company.
The network, Calida argued, “engaged in propaganda” after the case was filed last week.
Critics were quick to jump on the issue, claiming that Calida’s move was part of the administration’s efforts to harass ABS-CBN, among other media entities for being critical of the President and his policies, particularly his brutal war on drugs.
Like the telenovelas that dominate the network’s programming, it is very obvious that ABS-CBN is playing the victim card in this real-life drama to generate more sympathy from the public.
But Calida is always one step ahead. Last Tuesday, he filed an urgent motion for the High Court to issue a gag order on ABS-CBN banning “parties and persons acting on their behalf” from releasing statements discussing the merits of his plea.
Calida cited in his petition that this violates the sub judice rule, which prohibits anyone from publicly assessing an ongoing case to avoid pre-judgment.
The government’s top lawyer also used the quo warranto card in the removal of Sereno, who had clashed with Duterte shortly after he assumed office over the Chief Executive’s drug watchlist.
And now this case, this time targeting the country’s largest network. Will ABS-CBN suffer the same fate as Sereno? Or will the government blink in the wake of criticisms?
For sure, lawyers of the network claiming to be in the service of the Filipino have dissected all the legal angles in the quo warranto case, as well as the effects of the non-renewal.
They must have seen that the quo warranto is more dangerous because if the Philippine Depository Receipts (PDR) for Filipino media which they used to obtain foreign investment are found illegal, it nullifies them as capital-raising instruments and exposes them to massive financial liability.
In the first place, mass media companies in the country must observe the all-Filipino rule in the constitution. No ifs and buts, no indirect or backdoor sneaking in and around this.
Losing the franchise, as some legal eagles have enunciated, is recoverable, and merely a case of a bad bet on politics. Invalidating the PDR, however, cuts them at the neck.
Investors can claim syndicated estafa if those PDR become known as fraudulent financial instruments.
That’s the genius of Calida. He looks where you are vulnerable and decapitates you there. As a famous Filipino quote goes, Walang lusot ang nagpapalusot.