A broadcast company is at the center of another quo warranto proceedings. As soon as the filling of the petition was announced, the country was immediately divided between those who are in favor of shutting down a broadcast giant and those who are not. Social media exploded with opinions here and there on whether the said company should remain on air or not. Those who are in favor of the shut down claim that the company did not pay much of its tax liabilities, violated labor laws, and most of all biased in its reporting and commentaries. Those who are against the shut down claim that the move by the government is an affront to press freedom which is essential in a democracy. The solicitor general asserts that he was merely performing his mandate as the chief lawyer of the government. That it is his duty to file the much talked about petition just as he did earlier with former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Rule 66 of the Rules of Court states: “Section 1. Action by Government against individuals.- An action for the usurpation of a public office, position or franchise may be commenced by a verified petition brought in the name for the Republic of the Philippines against: (a) A person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office, position or franchise;…” The rule applies to the broadcast company it being a holder of a broadcast franchise. The main issue in a petition for quo warranto is the usurpation or validity or legality in this case of a franchise. In filling the petition, the Solicitor General claims that the broadcast company is operating without a valid franchise. In other words, the franchise the company holds or claims to hold is an invalid one and its operation is illegal because it did not have the necessary government license or permit to. Petitions for quo warranto are not often filed in court that is why many, including lawyers are just beginning to understand the nature of this kind of court action. It must be clarified though, that this action questions the validity or legality of the company’s franchise and not its alleged non-payment of taxes, violation of labor laws, or bias in news reporting or commentaries. These issues on their own, are not matters that go into or related to the question on the validity of the franchise unless they are violations of the conditions stated in the franchise. I have not read the contents of the petition of the Solicitor General but the sympathies for or against the broadcast company might be blurring the essential questions that are to be tackled by the Supreme Court when they deliberate on the case. The issue on ownership by foreigners though, might be the most important issue here for if indeed the company is partly owned by foreigners then it is a blatant violation of constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of media companies in the country.
This petition might just have unintentionally opened Pandora’s box and known show business personalities are now debating on whether their media networks are paying or treating their employees correctly. Whether this petition will prosper or not the discussion on the proper pay and benefits of artists, news presenters and reporters, and all kinds of work force employed by the media networks should continue until their situation and treatment improve.