MANILA, Philippines – With the clock ticking on ABS-CBN, the Supreme Court en banc decided on Tuesday, February 11, to settle for a procedural act of asking the broadcast network to submit its comment within 10 days on the quo warranto petition against its franchise.
This means that there is no temporary restraining order (TRO) for now against ABS-CBN's movie channel, the Kapamilya Box Office (KBO) channel which has 9 million subscribers.
"Yes (there's no TRO for now), the only order relayed to me by the Court En Banc was to require respondents to comment on the petition," said Supreme Court Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka.
Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a very urgent motion to the Supreme Court on Monday, February 10, asking for a TRO against KBO channel, which the solicitor general is calling as an illegal pay-per-view channel.
Calida said KBO's pay-per-view service was neither included in the franchise terms, nor did it secure permits from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) – one of the two grounds, the other being alleged foreign ownership, to attempt to revoke ABS-CBN's franchise via the High Tribunal.
KBO is a pay-per-view movie channel that subscribers pay a P30 weekly fee for, on top of its one-time payment for the digital box ABS-CBN TV Plus.
Calida also asked the Court that ABS-CBN be given only 5 days to comment, but the en banc went with 10 days.
"The Supreme Court in today’s En Banc session, required the respondents to file their comment to the said petition for Quo Warranto within a non-extendible period of 10 days from receipt of notice," said Hosaka.
Sources told Rappler that the order to comment is given without due course. That simply means that the en banc is not necessarily accepting the case, which is crucial in this matter because experts note that Calida's quo warranto petition should be filed before trial courts, and not the Supreme Court.
Calida also asked in his very urgent motion to hold oral arguments on March 3. The en banc did not decide on that. "There was no order setting the case for oral arguments," said Hosaka.
This creates a wait-and-see situation for ABS-CBN, whose franchise is expiring on March 30.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the Supreme Court deliberations can go on even as the House of Representatives tackle the bills seeking to renew the franchise.
It just means they are two independent proceedings.
Constitutional law professor Tony La Viña said that should the Supreme Court grant the petition, it would not bar ABS-CBN from seeking a new franchise or even a renewal of its existing one.
"Congressional power over franchises are plenary in nature," said La Viña.
Law professor Ted Te said that should the House grant the franchise, Calida's petition becomes moot.
"If the Supreme Court grants the Quo Warranto before the Congress renews the franchise, Congress can still grant the franchise because it’s a separate power in itself," said Te. – Rappler.com