On Monday, 24 February, the Senate will hold a plenary session to pave the way for discussions in the Senate committee on public services to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. but chairman Sen. Grace Poe should inhibit from her panel’s deliberations, former presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
Roque who guested during the weekly “Pairfect” forum of the Daily Tribune cited several conflicts of interest of Poe on the ABS-CBN franchise issue that should warrant her restraint from the committee discussions.
“I’m surprised that she’s very involved in the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise and she’s even chairman of the committee that will review the legislative license since her family has deep ties with the television network,” Roque noted.
“Her mother Susan Roces works with ABS-CBN while the movie vault of her father, action movie king Fernando Poe Jr., are maintained by the network,” he explained.
Roces is a contract star of the television network.
Roque said the best recourse for the senator is to stay away from the proceedings involving the franchise renewal and hand over the lead in the investigation to the vice chairman.
Not an objective source
“She should have the delicadeza to admit that she will not be objective in making a decision regarding ABS-CBN,” Roque noted.
Roque and Poe previously clashed over the proposed bill of the senator that seeks to impose penalties on persons who spread fake news or disinformation.
The then Palace aide underlined that Poe’s proposed law is unconstitutional.
“There should be no law abridging freedom of expression. Any law which will criminalize fake news will obviously be a violation of this Constitutional provision since it is a law that will abridge freedom of expression,” Roque said.
“If the objective is to uphold the truth, it does not matter if it’s a legitimate journalist or a blogger that spreads false news. And that’s why my position is there is no basis for singling out that only government employees should have liability when they spread false news,” according to Roque.
Nature of prior restraint
Moreover, Roque forecast that the Supreme Court (SC) will not act on the petition for quo warranto filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against ABS-CBN since the petition seeks to cancel the remaining franchise of the television network for the next two months, which he said is in the nature of prior restraint and is “hence presumed unconstitutional.”
“The Court will exercise judicial prudence, allow the issue to become moot and not rule on the petition during the next two months and allow Congress to decide whether or not to give ABS-CBN an extension of its franchise,” Roque averred.
“Given the doctrine of mootness, the court need not decide on the dispute. This is even if the issue of the legality of the pay-per-view scheme may be a novel issue for the Court to resolve,” he noted.
Nonetheless. he said that filing a quo warranto petition was the correct remedy on the issues raised against ABS-CBN.
The legal action asks ABS-CBN to show by what authority the latter is exercising a franchise or a public office.
“It is recognized under Rule 66 of our Revised Rules of Court. Article VIII, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution, in turn, provides that the power of the Supreme Court includes original jurisdiction over petitions for quo warranto,” Roque said.
Contrary to the claims of some members of Congress, the tribunal is in fact duty bound to act on the petition of the Solicitor General, he continued.
What is pending in Congress is an application for renewal of a franchise soon to expire, while the plea before the SC will affect the remaining two months of the existing franchise, according to Roque.