Coming at a time when the Solicitor General is defending the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 against 37 petitions, particularly on the issue involving “overbreadth doctrine” among others, such remarks from a high-ranking military official is uncalled for and totally unnecessary.
I hope the Supreme Court will not include the Senate or any of its committees in the gag order, if issued as petitioned by the Solicitor General, in deference to the settled jurisprudence that tackled similar issues in the past.
What may be covered, though, are the resource persons who will be invited to shed light on this instant case involving the franchise of ABS-CBN as they are not exempt from the sub judice rule, which covers litigants and witnesses, members of the bar and the public in general.
Thus, they may run the risk of being cited for contempt once they express their opinions that might pose a clear and present danger in the administration of justice by directly influencing the members of the Court in rendering their votes to resolve the pending petition for quo warranto.
As I have earlier mentioned, there is no jurisdiction issue here. Rather, it is about merits in the SolGen’s allegations regarding an existing 25-year franchise that is expiring and over which the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction under the 1987 Constitution; and the merits of ABS-CBN’s application for a legislative franchise that Congress has the sole power to grant or deny under the same Constitution.
It is a matter of different jurisdictions. The quo warranto petition is under the original jurisdiction of the Court. Approval or renewal of legislative franchise is the jurisdiction of both houses of Congress. As such, I see no conflict in jurisdictions.
As in the case of former Chief Justice Sereno, under Art VIII, Sec 5, Paragraph 1 of the 1987 Constitution, the Supreme Court exercises original jurisdiction over a petition for quo warranto, among other petitions filed by the State through the Office of the Solicitor General.
Hence, Solicitor General Jose Calida cannot be prevented from filing the petition in the case of the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN.
Likewise, Congress is not prevented from exercising its powers under the same Constitution to act on the application for renewal or a new franchise which is now pending before the House of Representatives.