THE Office of the Solicitor General yesterday asked the Supreme Court to issue a gag order requiring parties in the quo warranto petition filed against television giant ABS-CBN to refrain from publicly discussing the suit’s merits.
In a “Very Urgent Motion for Issuance of Gag Order,” the OSG said that ABS-CBN has engaged in “media propaganda” ever since the quo warranto suit, which sought to nullify the franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., was filed before the high court last February 10.
The high court later in the afternoon issued a resolution requiring ABS-CBN network to answer within five days the OSG’s plea for a gag order.
“Not content with issuing its official statement on the petition, ABS-CBN thereafter engaged in propaganda in a clear attempt to elicit public sympathy, sway public opinion, and, ultimately, to influence the resolution of the case,” Solicitor General Jose Calida said.
Calida cited among others a video entitled “Quo Warranto petition laban sa ABS-CBN, ano ang ibig sabihin” aired on February 14 by the network that he said directly tackled the allegations in the quo warranto petition.
“The statements aired by anchor Christian Esguerra in the video tend to influence public opinion and unfairly encourage the pre-judgment of the instant case that in the event that the quo warranto petition will be granted, the Filipinos will experience a sense of unjust treatment as they would be deprived of their favorite shows in ABS-CBN,” the motion said.
The “very urgent motion” also cited a video entitled “Pagbabalita ng DZMM, binigyang pugay ng karaniwang Pilipino, broadcast on TV Patrol on February 16 which Calida said elicited from those interviewed “biased answers in favor of ABS-CBN.”
On February 10, a “Very Urgent Omnibus Motion” which was personally filed by Calida, urged the high court to forfeit the franchises of ABS-CBN and ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc., saying “they are unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises.”
Also, the OSG stressed the petition was meant to stop the alleged “abusive practices” of ABS CBN.
The ABS-CBN franchise is set to expire this March, and bills are pending before the Senate and House of Representatives to have this extended.
On numerous occasions, President Duterte threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, accusing the network of biased reporting and railing against its failure to air his political advertisement during the 2016 campaign.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the granting of a franchise to television and radio companies is a power lodged in Congress
International group Human Rights Watch decried President Duterte’s moves blocking the franchise renewal, taking it as a curtailment of press freedom. The group added that lawmakers should remain “independent” from the President’s whims.