Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to issue a gag order against ABS-CBN, claiming the broadcast giant was engaging in propaganda to sway the justices in the quo warranto case seeking to void its franchise.

Calida filed the “very urgent” motion a week after bringing ABS-CBN to the high court, accusing the Lopez-led TV network of employing “highly abusive” practices and that its franchise should be forfeited.

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

The solicitor general cited an explainer video on the quo warranto case by senior reporter Christian Esguerra, and commentaries on the ABS-CBN News website.

Under the sub judice rule, courts restrict discussions on the merits of pending cases, to avoid prejudgment and influence on the court that could lead to a miscarriage of justice. Violators may be liable for indirect contempt, based on the Rules of Court.

But there has to be “clear and present danger,” meaning “the evil consequence of the comment must be ‘extremely serious and the degree of imminence extremely high’ before an utterance can be punished,” Justice Noel Tijam wrote in a 2018 decision on a gag order in the case of the quo warranto petition that led to the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, which Calida also initiated.

“Freedom of speech should not be impaired through the exercise of the power of contempt of court unless there is no doubt that the utterances in question make a serious and imminent threat to the administration of justice. It must constitute an imminent, not merely a likely, threat,” Tijam’s decision stated.

Reacting to Calida’s gag order petition, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said: “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,” he said in a statement.

“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,” Lacson said.

Sen. Grace Poe, who was set to conduct an inquiry into the ABS-CBN franchise, said the hearing would push through “according to our Constitutional mandate.”

“It is up to the Supreme Court to act on that motion under existing laws and jurisprudence where it recognized the jurisdiction of its co-equal branch,” she said in a statement.

Calida’s quo warranto petition has earned condemnation from media workers, academics and other stakeholders, many of them describing it as an attack on press freedom.

President Rodrigo Duterte had vowed to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, which expires at the end of March 2020.

The high court gave ABS-CBN 10 days to comment on Calida’s quo warranto petition, but it has yet to give due course to it Separately, it gave ABS-CBN five days to respond to Calida’s request for a gag order. (