Quick response: Media question legality of NTC order vs alternative press

CHEERS TO several media organizations for quickly challenging the legality of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) order blocking access to two alternative media news sites. TeleRadyo and TV5 conducted interviews with an independent legal expert who underlined how the agency violated due process. The Philippine Daily Inquirer in an editorial stressed that the NTC’s move was based on “hearsay,” citing the opinion of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

NTC’s basis

On June 22, the NTC ordered internet service providers to prohibit access to alternative media outfits Pinoy Weekly and Bulatlat, as well as 24 other websites. The agency  acted on the instruction of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, who claimed the affected sites were publishing propaganda for the communist insurgency.

Free press advocates  condemned the NTC action, calling it unconstitutional, and intended to silence independent media and government critics.

Media scrutinize legality, lack of due process

TV5’s Frontline Tonight and TeleRadyo’s Sakto also questioned in live interviews the legal basis of the NTC measure. The programs, aired on June 23 and June 27 respectively, featured insights from lawyer Domingo Cayosa, former national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. 

Frontline anchors Ed Lingao and Maeanne Los Baños asked how a government official’s say-so could lead to the closure of websites. Citing the NTC charter, Cayosa reminded the agency that it is a quasi-judicial body that should hear all parties’ explanations before taking action. NTC’s failure to allow Bulatlat or Pinoy Weekly any defense was in violation of due process, Cayosa said. 

 Los Baños questioned the arbitrary linking of individuals to the armed rebellion. Cayosa urged security officials to present  evidence  to substantiate their claims. He added that free expression is a right that should not be “trampled upon” at the mere request of authorities.

TeleRadyo’s Johnson Manabat also questioned the legal basis of NTC’s measure. Cayosa emphasized another questionable aspect of the move: Only one out of the three NTC commissioners  signed the order. NTC rules require that a majority of commissioners sign a decision before it is implemented, noted Cayosa.

Manabat then asked what legal recourse is available to Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly. Cayosa cited the NTC rule allowing them to file for reconsideration, adding that both news organizations could file a complaint for “grave abuse of discretion.” 

In its June 27 editorial, the Philippine Daily Inquirer echoed the IBP’s description of the NTC move as solely based on hearsay. The Inquirer noted that Esperon has not produced substantial proof to support his claims. 

It is important for media to clarify how both the National Security Adviser and the NTC failed to observe due process. Journalists should be quick to respond when government itself violates the rule of law. More importantly, journalists should stand in solidarity with members of the media who are wrongfully accused. The attack on one  is an attack on the institution and the entire community.