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The Supreme Court will have the final say on the corporate existence of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.

Solicitor General Jose Calida filed before the Supreme Court (SC) a quo warranto petition seeking the forfeiture of the legislative franchises of ABS-CBN Corp. and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc.

Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo maintained that Calida was only fulfilling his mandate as the government’s top counsel when the latter filed the petition.

“We will repeat our position on the matter. The filing of petition for quo warranto is on the initiative of the Solicitor General, pursuant to his constitutional duty to file any action in court in the event of any, from his point of view, transgression of any law. That’s why he filed a case,” he said. “We will leave it to the Supreme Court, vis-à-vis that petition.”

In his quo warranto plea, Calida accused the local media giant of committing “highly abusive practices” at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers and hiding “behind an elaborately crafted corporate veil.”

Calida also claimed that ABS-CBN violated the 1987 Constitution when it allowed foreign investors to take part in its ownership by issuing Philippine Deposit Receipts through ABS-CBN Holdings Corp.

Section 11(1), Article 16 of the 1987 Constitution provides that the ownership and management of mass media "shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens."

Earlier Tuesday, the SC ordered ABS-CBN to comment on the quo warranto suit filed by Calida.

No Duterte hand

Panelo also reiterated that Duterte is not behind Calida’s filing of the quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN.

The President’s gripes against ABS-CBN stemmed from his “displeasure” over the news firm’s failure to run his political advertisements during the 2016 presidential derby, he said.

“The President has nothing to do with it. Whatever the utterance the President made in relation to the ABS-CBN came from his displeasure of being a victim of fraud, relative to his paying, for his campaign commercial that was never aired,” Panelo said.

“Now, those utterances fall within the freedom of expression and we cannot deprive him of that, given that the Constitution grants that to all citizens of this country,” he added.

ABS-CBN’s 25-year congressional franchise will expire on March 30, 2020, unless Congress and Duterte grant its renewal.

Up to Congress

Panelo also insisted that the renewal of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise would be up to Congress.

He made the remarks following the claim of some critics that the President might make a way to stop the granting of the franchise to ABS-CBN.

“And let me say that the grant of the franchise falls exclusively within Congress… Some people are saying, ‘The President can veto, in the event that renewal is given by Congress,’” Panelo said. “Again, the Constitution says that can be via three-fourths vote or two-thirds, it can be overruled. In other words, from whatever angle you look at it, it’s Congress, it’s not the President.”

A congressional franchise bill needs to be first approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate before the President can decide on its fate.

As president, Duterte has the power to sign into law or veto bills that Congress approves.

House lawmakers, however, have yet to deliberate on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.

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