Panelo: Even celebrities will be covered by ABS-CBN gag order

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 18) — If President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson and chief legal counsel is to be believed, even celebrities would also be barred from talking about the government’s bid to void its franchise if the Supreme Court issues a gag order.

‘Pag gag order, naka-order ‘yan. Everybody is covered,” Salvador Panelo said Tuesday. “They can always speak themselves, subject to the contempt power of the Supreme Court.”

Panelo said only lawmakers conducting hearings on ABS-CBN and its franchise would be exempted from the gag order. This is also the assertion of senators bent on beginning hearings on the TV network’s franchise ahead of any action by the House of Representatives.

Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to issue a gag order to stop ABS-CBN and its representatives from discussing the quo warranto case which he filed against the network.

Calida pointed out several supposed violations of the sub judice rule — which bars comments on judicial proceedings to avoid influencing the court — including “unsolicited opinions” of ABS-CBN, its artists and other personalities on his quo warranto petition to cancel the broadcast giant’s franchise.

TIMELINE: ABS-CBN franchise

Calida cited 31 news articles from various outlets, including ABS-CBN and CNN Philippines, where celebrities and other personalities are quoted making comments on his petition to void ABS-CBN’s franchise.

READ: GMA stars, reporter show support for ABS-CBN amid franchise challenge

Among the personalities who have commented on the petition seeking to void ABS-CBN include Boy Abunda, Dingdong Dantes, Vice Ganda, Robin Padilla, Liza Soberano, Enrique Gil, Lea Salonga, Anne Curtis, Kris Bernal, Sharon Cuneta and Alex Gonzaga.

Calida said these comments would "tend to influence public opinion and unfairly encourage the pre-judgment of the instant case."

While Calida is only asking the highest court to issue a gag order for ABS-CBN and its representatives, he also cited a 2010 separate opinion of then-Supreme Court Associate Justice Arturo Brion, who said that even the public is covered by the sub judice rule.

Supreme Court Public Information Office Chief Brian Keith Hosaka said that if the gag order is approved, it will also cover Calida and the Office of the Solicitor General.

The Supreme Court en banc is set to meet again next Wednesday, a day after the anniversary of the 1986 EDSA Revolution.

CNN Philippines’ Xave Gregorio, Melissa Luz Lopez and Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.