President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the oath-taking rites of newly elected officers and board members of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) at Malacañan Palace on Feb. 12, 2020. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said broadcasting is a “privilege” extended by the government and that any abuse of this privilege would not be tolerated.

While he did not directly address the Supreme Court case filed by his solicitor general, Jose Calida, against broadcast giant ABS-CBN on Monday, Duterte echoed the latter’s reference to “abuse” of franchises.

“While our Constitution upholds the freedom of the press, the function to broadcast is a privilege granted by the government. It is imbued with the best interest of the nation and our people. We will not tolerate any abuse of [this] privilege,” Duterte said during oath-taking rites of the organization of broadcast executives, of which ABS-CBN is a top member.

Calida on Monday asked the Supreme Court to void the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN Corp., claiming the country’s largest media network had engaged in “highly abusive practices.”

“We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers. These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years,” Calida said in a statement.

READ: Solicitor general asks high court to shut down ABS-CBN

Calida’s petition cites two grounds:

• ABS-CBN illegally operated a digital pay-per-view channel, as it did not secure a permit from the telecom regulators; and
• like the news website Rappler, which the government had sued for supposedly violating the total ban on foreign ownership in mass media, ABS-CBN had issued financial instruments known as “Philippine Depositary Receipts” (PDRs) to foreigners. PDRs have underlying equity or shares which entitle holders to dividends, but not ownership.

The petition also claimed that an ABS-CBN subsidiary that offered mobile phone and digital TV services, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., operated without congressional approval.

“The legislative franchises of ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. must be revoked. A franchise is a special privilege granted by the State, and should be restricted only to entities which faithfully adhere to our Constitution,” Calida said.

The Latin quo warranto means “by what warrant,” and is defined by Rule 66 of the Rules of Court as “an action for the usurpation of a public office, position or franchise.”

Duterte told broadcast executives Wednesday to come out with stories exposing wrongdoing in government, even if it destroyed him.

“Ako ang aking hinihingi is simply the truth. If the truth will destroy me, so be it. Huwag kayong mag ano, na magdala — mag-isip-isip pa kung ano. If the truth will — masisira ako, that’s the price of being in public service,” he said. (