Gag order acceptable practice to prevent outside influence: law dean

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 18 2020 05:11 PM

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MANILA - A law dean on Tuesday said the move of the Solicitor General to file a gag order against ABS-CBN Corp. is nothing out of the ordinary and consistent with the sub judice rule.

"Sa court po, we are bound by the sub judice rule because precisely we want to make sure that Lady Justice will not be swayed by comments or opinions by other parties," Atty. Maria Soledad Mawis, dean of the Lyceum of the Philippines University College of Law.

Mawis told DZMM that sub judice is an acceptable practice to ensure that the magistrates and the public are free from any outside influence.

"Siguro yours is a very peculiar situation because the company is a party litigant and at the same is engaged in the business of reporting," she said.

In a very urgent motion, the government's top counsel wants to prohibit "parties and persons acting on their [network's] behalf" from releasing statements surrounding the quo warranto petition filed by OSG to invalidate the network's license.

OSG earlier asked the high court to forfeit the license of ABS-CBN, which operates free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM, due to several violations.

Solicitor General Jose Calida’s quo warranto petition alleged that the company had issued Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs) to foreigners, the same issue raised against news website Rappler.

In a public statement, ABS-CBN said Calida’s allegations are 'without merit' as the organization “complies with all the pertinent laws governing its franchise,” saying the quo warranto case was an “effort to shut down” their operations.

Mawis explained that even without the issuance of a gag order, the litigants and the witnesses cannot discuss the proceedings openly because of the sub judice rule. Otherwise, they could be held liable in contempt for doing so.

"Ang mahirap dito ABS-CBN is a party to the case and as a rule, a party is not supposed to make comment," she said. "It has already been filed in court and out of respect and deference to our court, then let the court decide."

The High Court has given ABS-CBN and its subsidiary 5 days after notice to answer Calida's gag order plea.