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NTC urged to scrap CDO vs ABS-CBN

By Jeffrey Damicog

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has been urged to withdraw the cease and desist order it issued on Tuesday against ABS-CBN network that forced the media giant to stop its operations.

A man runs outside the ABS-CBN network headquarters where candles are lit following government orders to cease its operations, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

A man runs outside the ABS-CBN network headquarters where candles are lit following government orders to cease its operations, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) made the call as it pointed out that shutting down ABS-CBN “undermines public interest because it shuts off one avenue of information, arguably one with the widest reach, for our people in the midst of a global pandemic.”

“FLAG calls on the NTC to do the right thing: protect the free flow of information and the people’s right to know during this time of public health emergency by immediately rescinding the Cease and Desist Order,” read its statement signed by FLAG chairman Chel Diokno and Metro Manila coordinator Theodore Te.

The FLAG said that amid the pandemic “the greater good requires more people to know more.”

The group lamented that the NTC’s cease and desist order only “reflects distorted priorities that are inimical to the public interest.”

Despite the advice from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and directives issued by Congress that it can issue a provisional authority that will allow the network to operate while the renewal of its legislative franchise remains pending, the NTC said it issued the cease and desist order since ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise had already expired on May 4.

Considering that Congress has the power to grant, modify, or revoke franchises, the FLAG said NTC’s order pre-empted Congressional action in this area exclusively reserved to it by the Constitution and is an exercise of discretion that gravely upsets the constitutional architecture and design.”

“The Order also directly undermines the freedom of the press by singling out the one network that had been publicly identified as having incurred the ire of the President, and administering administratively the coup de grace,” the group said.

“It is a matter of public knowledge that the NTC had previously allowed other networks similarly situated to ABS-CBN to continue operating and had not issued a Cease and Desist Order,” it said.

The FLAG said the NTC is not the only one which should be blamed in the shutting down of the media giant.

“To be sure, the NTC does not deserve all the blame; a large part of it should be shared by Members of the House of Representatives who refused to even hear the applications for the franchise renewal before the expiration of the franchise,” the FLAG said.

The group also blamed the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) which filed a quo warranto petition seeking the nullification of the network’s franchise due to alleged violations and had pressured the NTC against granting provisional authority to ABS-CBN.

The FLAG also blamed the Department of Justice (DOJ) which should have granted the appeal of the NTC for a legal opinion on what should have been done “but chose not to.”


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/05/06/ntc-urged-to-scrap-cdo-vs-abs-cbn/)

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