With SC yet to resolve pleas, a political prisoner gives birth while ABS-CBN faces another CDO
This file photo shows the Supreme Court compound in Padre Faura, Manila.
Philstar.com/Erwin Cagadas
With SC yet to resolve pleas, a political prisoner gives birth while ABS-CBN faces another CDO
(Philstar.com) - July 1, 2020 - 6:16pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 8:23 p.m.) — Months have since passed since a group of prisoners and embattled media giant ABS-CBN have run to the Supreme Court for immediate relief but the tribunal has yet to resolve their pleas.

One of the 23 prisoners who knocked on the SC’s gates for temporary release due to the COVID-19 pandemic has already given birth while waiting for the tribunal’s action on their petition they filed on April 8.

ABS-CBN has, too, sought relief from the high court by way of a temporary restraining order against the implementation of a cease and desist order that forced them to go off air on May 5.

But the SC, on both high-profile cases, has only so far asked respondents to file their respective comments on the petitions.

Political prisoners’ plea

A group of political prisoners on April 8 filed a petition by way of a special civil action for certiorari and asked the tribunal to direct their temporary release during “the duration of the state of public health emergency, national calamity, lockdown and community quarantine due to the threats of the COVID-19.”

“Petitioners are praying for a fair chance at surviving the devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in spaces that are not blighted with the overcrowding and lack of access to hygiene measures and medical care,” their plea read.

When they filed the petition, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology had placed 15 inmates under isolation after they came in contact with an inmate who died of suspected COVID-19. Data from the BJMP as of June 11 stated that 745 detainees have acquired the coronavirus. Community quarantine restrictions have also since been relaxed since the petition has been filed: From the strictest enhanced community quarantine to general community quarantine in Metro Manila.

And on Wednesday, roughly three months since they sought the SC’s order for temporary release or be allowed to seek bail, political prisoner Reina Mae Asis Nasino gave birth to her first child.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, in the rare meet the press event on June 11, said that the member-in-charge of the case was stranded in Visayas that resulted in the delay of en banc deliberations on the case.

ABS-CBN’s petition

Two days after ABS-CBN went off air, the media giant filed a petition for certiorari before the SC and asked for the issuance of a temporary restraining order. The network is operating on a theory that if a halt order was issued against the implementation of the CDO, it can return off air.

The SC has resolved two of the three petitions related to ABS-CBN. It junked Solicitor General Jose Calida’s quo warranto petition against the now-lapsed franchise and lawyer Larry Gadon’s plea on the Congress’ move to allow the issuance of a provisional authority to the network.

But ABS-CBN’s petition, including its prayer for a temporary restraining order, remains pending, almost two months since it was filed.

ABS-CBN said it seeks the urgent application for a TRO to “prevent grave and irreparable injury to ABS-CBN.” In a reiterative petition filed May 18, ABS-CBN told the court it loses about P30 million to 35 million for everytime it is off-air. “If this severe financial hemorrhage is not stopped, ABS-CBN may be constrained to eventually let go of workers, reduce salaries and benefits, and substantially cut down on costs and expenses,” it said.

Peralta said June 11 that the member-in-charge of the petition “asked for July 13 for deliberation.” The chief justice also said then that they had just received comments from the House of Representatives and Senate.

Since the petition was filed, ABS-CBN said its talents and managers have agreed to take a cut in their salaries to help the network deal with the impact of its shutdown.

Meanwhile, the NTC slapped the embattled media network with another CDO. This time, the commission wanted Sky Cable Corp.’s Direct broadcast, an ABS-CBN affiliate, and the network’s digital terrestrial television in Metro Manila, which covers the TVPlus service to go off air.

‘Aanhin pa ang damo kung wala nang kabayo’

Minority Sen. Francis Pangilinan on Wednesday said he hopes the SC “puts on the brakes on this madness,” referring to the latest NTC order to ABS-CBN where his wife, Sharon Cuneta, is a talent.

The SC operates on its own timetable, constitutional law expert Tony La Viña said. As such, “sometimes it acts and sometimes it doesn’t.”

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers Edre Olalia, however, said it would be ideal if preliminary reliefs asked by the party may be resolved by the SC.

“Necessary deliberation and requisite routine procedure must be balanced with deliberate action especially that the other branches and agencies of government are claimed to have foot-dragged in providing effective remedies or are complicit in the injustice,” Olalia said.

“There is a valid concern or expectation that the plight of the aggrieved parties and overriding public interest should hurdle limitations of the pandemic and should not be allowed to weigh down decisive action warranted by the urgency of these matters,” he added.

“Aanhin pa ang damo kung wala na ang kabayo,” Olalia also said.

The SC will meet for another en banc session on Tuesday, July 7. — Kristine Joy Patag

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