Solicitor General Jose Calida invoked the sub judice rule before a public hearing at the House of Representatives on bills seeking to grant a franchise to media giant ABS-CBN, saying pending cases before the Supreme Court required him to “tread lightly” on the issue.

But this did not stop Calida from accusing the country’s largest network of being motivated by “greed and the desire for power and influence.”

“For decades now, ABS-CBN has been deceiving the Filipino people. Their brazen acts must come to an end. The hour of reckoning may have been delayed, but it has now come,” said Calida.

Calida in February asked the Supreme Court to void ABS-CBN’s franchise, claiming it violated the constitutional ban on foreign ownership and illegally charged consumers for a pay-per-view service using a digital broadcast service, among others.

President Rodrigo Duterte had regularly lashed out at ABS-CBN, claiming it was biased against him and was acting as a “mouthpiece” of the oligarchs. In December, he said he would make sure ABS-CBN won’t get a franchise.

Press freedom advocates view the franchise tussle as a ploy to silence ABS-CBN on the pretext of legal issues.

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Calida told lawmakers via videoconferencing: “ABS-CBN has committed too many violations which went unnoticed and unpunished. But we are determined to root out such illegal practices.”

He hit back at Coco Martin for the ABS-CBN primetime actor’s statements against him on social media, saying: “If I had not been Solicitor General, I would have called his bluff and make him eat his words.”

Calida also denied pressuring the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) into issuing a cease-and-desist that forced ABS-CBN to shut down on May 5, the day after its 25-year franchise expired. ABS-CBN has questioned the NTC order before the high tribunal.

“I only cautioned NTC on its possible encroachment on the legislative power,” Calida said.

Lawmakers took the NTC to task for promising in March to heed the legal advice of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra that ABS-CBN could be given a temporary license while the House deliberated on the franchise.

“It was not our intention to inconvenience Congress. Trabaho lang po ang aming isinagawa alinsunod sa mandato ng aming ahensya na naaayon sa batas, at walang bahid o intensyon na makasakit ng damin o di kaya’y mag-abuso sa kahit kanino man,” NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said.

While Calida and the NTC were allowed to invoke sub judice. the House Committee on Good Government chairman, Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, said ABS-CBN was not covered by the rule because there was no gag order from the Supreme Court.

The joint hearing of the legislative franchises and good government committees will resume on Wednesday. (

Preview image: House of Representatives