Calida on ABS-CBN: And now, the end is near

“AND now, the end is near.”

Solicitor General Jose Calida used this line from the iconic Frank Sinatra classic, “My Way,” to warn that there’s no way his office would allow ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation to resume operations for allegedly committing “too many violations” of the Constitution and its previous franchise.

“ABS-CBN has committed too many violations which went unnoticed and unpunished. But we are determined to root out such illegal practices,” Calida said during Monday’s continuation of the joint hearing of the House committee on legislative franchises and on good government and public accountability.

“ABS-CBN is motivated not by service but by greed and a desire for power and influence. Their brazen acts must come to an end.

The hour of reckoning may have been delayed, but it has now come,” Calida added. The top government counsel appeared before the joint panel via Zoom to explain his role in the closure of the media giant and why he was absent during the last hearing.

Calida also denied meddling with Congress when he advised the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) not to grant ABS-CBN provisional authority that will allow the network to broadcast while the renewal of its legislative franchise remains pending. The NTC eventually issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN after its legislative franchise expired last May 4.

Calida, who earlier filed a quo warranto case against ABS-CBN before the Supreme Court, said he was “not at loggerheads with Congress” as he merely cautioned the NTC of its possible encroachment on the legislative power.

He also assured lawmakers that the Office of the Solicitor General, as defender of the Republic and the Filipino people, had always been vigilant in its crusade for the rule of law and good governance as it had shown in the cases against ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and jailed Senator Leila de Lima.

“Bakit pa kami titigil ngayon? Responsibilidad naming ipagpatuloy ang labang ito hindi para saming sarili kundi para sa sambayanang Pilipino. We will endeavor to right every wrong no matter what the cost, no matter who we go up against,” Calida stressed.

Calida insisted that the ABS-CBN allegedly committed violations arising from its franchise, the laws and the Constitution, including allowing another entity, ABS-CBN Convergence, to “make use and abuse” its legislative franchise allegedly without authority from Congress and its issuance of Philippine Deposit Receipts (PDRs) to foreigners in alleged violation of the constitutional ban on foreign ownership of mass media.

“For decades now, ABS-CBN has been deceiving the Filipino people.

The time has come to expose ABS-CBN, whose owners and corporate officers continue to deceive the Filipino people into believing that they are ‘In the Service of the Filipino,’” the Solicitor General pointed out.

For his part, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba again apologized to Congress for the “confusion” caused by the closure order against ABS-CBN even as he maintained that the NTC merely followed the law, which provides that a broadcasting company can only operate in the country if it has a legislative franchise.

“I would like, on behalf of the Commission, to reiterate our sincere apologies for the ensuing confusion this has caused. It was not our intention to inconvenience Congress and certainly we intended no disrespect,” Cordoba told the joint committee via Zoom.

He explained that the regulatory body’s power to issue provisional authority “emanates from laws and statutes, which the NTC is bound to implement.”

“Trabaho lang po ang aming isinagawa, alinsunod sa batas,” he concluded.