By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter

THE Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) asked the Supreme Court (SC) to issue a gag order to prohibit parties in the quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN Corp. and ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. to release statements on the merits of the case.

In a statement, the OSG said that while the release of statements by ABS-CBN did not violate the sub judice rule as they are similar to press briefers done by the court, the corporation later “engaged in propaganda.” The sub judice rule restricts parties, witnesses, the public, litigants and judges from commenting on pending cases.

“However, not content with issuing its official statement on the petition, ABS-CBN thereafter engaged in propaganda in a clear attempt to elicit public sympathy, sway public opinion, and, ultimately, to influence the resolution of the case,” Solicitor General Jose C. Calida said in the statement.

The OSG filed the very urgent motion for the issuance of a gag order on Tuesday. It cited instances where ABS-CBN violated the rule such as the release of its video “Quo warranto petition laban sa ABS-CBN, ano ang ibig sabihin? (Quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN, what does it mean?),” which “tend to influence public opinion and unfairly encourage the pre-judgment of the instant case.”

It also noted two reports aired on TV Patrol, the network’s news program, in which the company justified its KBO Channel operation.

The state lawyers also noted the commentaries on the network’s online arm and statements issued by its artists, other personalities and various media outfits on the petition.

Mr. Calida said all issues should be raised properly to the courts.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that justices and judges are not immune from the pervasive effects of media. Respondents belong to the biggest media conglomerate in the country whose artists and talents, impervious to the law, freely publish their comments,” Mr. Calida said.

“We want a gag order to be issued in this case so that facts can be decided upon evidence produced in court, and that the determination of such facts should be uninfluenced by bias, prejudice, or sympathies,” he added.

SC Public Information Chief Brian Keith F. Hosaka said the en banc ordered ABS-CBN to comment on the motion in five days upon its receipt.

The OSG on Feb. 10 filed the quo warranto petition seeking to cancel the franchises of ABS-CBN and its unit, saying it allowed foreign investors by issuing Philippine depositary receipts, which it said violated the Constitution.

It also said that the company went beyond the mandate of its franchise by “broadcasting for a fee” in its KBO Channel without approval of the National Telecommunications Commission, and that ABS-CBN Convergence had committed “ingenious corporate layering scheme.”

ABS-CBN belied the claims of the OSG, saying it complied with the law and secured all requirements and approval for its operations.