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House dangles contempt vs Calida

Keith A. Calayag

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Two House committees have directed Solicitor General (SolGen) Jose Calida to attend the House joint panel’s succeeding hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise or he’ll be held in contempt.

Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, chairman of the House committee on Good Government and Public Accountability and Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the Legislative Franchises Committee, both called out Calida’s absence in the hearing yesterday which seeks to grant the network a fresh 25-year franchise.

Calida invoked the sub judice rule, which he said prohibits him from sharing views and recommendations on issues surrounding ABS-CBN, explaining his non-attendance.

“The SolGen (Calida) being absent in this hearing should be enjoined to attend future hearings and explain his side why he should not be held in contempt,” Sy-Alvarado said.

Agreeing with Sy-Alvarado, Alvarez ordered the committee secretariat to write a letter to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), enjoining the office to attend succeeding hearings, saying that they will have to resort to “compulsory processes” should Calida decline to attend.

Calida was responsible for filing the quo warranto case with the Supreme Court (SC) against ABS-CBN, which he said he filed over constitutional violations allegedly committed by the company.

The OSG is also the statutory counsel of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which issued a cease-and-desist order (CDO) against the network, after it “reneged” on its commitment to allow ABS-CBN to operate beyond its lapsed franchise.

While they were forced to halt its broadcast operations on 5 May, ABS-CBN sought the SC for a temporary restraining order against the NTC’s CDO, but the SC ordered the NTC and both chambers of Congress to respond to ABS-CBN’s petition.

Last week, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House will invite Calida and NTC officials in the hearing.

Cayetano also said they cannot invoke sub judice as they should explain their actions that led to the shut down of ABS-CBN.

“They cannot invoke sub judice. They need to explain so that people could decide on their own if it is right or wrong,” Cayetano said in an ambush interview last 21 May.

Meanwhile, a lawmaker on Tuesday disclosed that getting an SC ruling to block the closure order against ABS-CBN is the easier route for the network to resume its broadcast operations.

In a television interview, AKO Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin — who is also a member of the House committee on legislative franchises — noted that the network giant should argue before the High Court on the procedural due process violations.

“Maybe the hope right now is to really argue before the Supreme Court on the procedural due process violations and violations of equal protection clause,” Garbin said. “These are the two grounds in which ABS-CBN can depend on so they can get a temporary restraining for them to resume operations of their stations.”

The solon also noted that there are 181 position papers filed in the House in support of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal while there are eight opposing it, in which the House of Representatives needs time to deliberate.

“Considering the legislative process, we’re just in the proceedings, that has to be adopted by committee. In the event it gets adopted, it will entail a lot of time in the second hearing, debate, interpellation and period of amendment. If its approved in the House, that will be transmitted to Senate,” Garbin explained.

“The House really needs time. The House Speaker promised there will be an impartial, fair and comprehensive hearing,” he added.

with ELMER N. MANUEL
@tribunephl_lmer

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