A STATE attempt to silence a media company critical of President Rodrigo R. Duterte should not prevent Congress from hearing its application for a franchise extension, a lawyer’s group said on Wednesday.

A potential judicial “gag order” would only cover the parties in a lawsuit and should not “deprive Congress as a co-equal and independent branch of government of its constitutional power and authority to look into the ABS-CBN franchise,” Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) President Domingo Egon Q. Cayosa said in a statement.

The Office of the Solicitor General this week asked the Supreme Court to issue a gag order on ABS-CBN pending a lawsuit it filed seeking to revoke the broadcaster’s franchise that is expiring next month.

Solicitor General Jose C. Calida accused ABS-CBN of engaging in propaganda, citing reports and statements by showbiz personalities on its news website allegedly to influence the court.

While the government’s chief government lawyer can invoke the high court’s contempt powers, the tribunal should balance this power with press freedom, Mr. Cayosa said.

He also said the 1987 Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the right of the people to information.

Mr. Calida earlier asked the court to revoke ABS-CBN’s franchise, accusing it of using an “elaborately crafted corporate veil” to allow foreign investors to take part in its ownership.

The media network has denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, Senator Ralph G. Recto said ABS-CBN’s alleged franchise violations were “not fatally defective” to deny its renewal.

“I’ve seen the complaints more or less and I think none of these complaints are fatally defective that it would warrant not to extend the franchise,” he said at a briefing.

He added that if the broadcaster had indeed violated the terms of its franchise, the National Telecommunications Commission should have stepped in already. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and C.A. Tadalan