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QC court sets hearing on Bulatlat's rap vs NTC, Esperon over blocked website access

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
QC court sets hearing on Bulatlat's rap vs NTC, Esperon over blocked website access
Bulatlat managing editor Ronalyn Olea and lawyers Minnie Lopez and Floyd Tiongson of the National Union of People's Lawyers speak to media in front of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court on July 8, 2022.
Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines —The Quezon City court has set the hearing on Bulatlat.com's legal challenge against the National Telecommunications Commission's move to block access to the independent news agency's website upon the request of ex-National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

The QC Regional Trial Court Branch 306 will hold the hearing on Wednesday.

“Set the Urgent Prayer for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction on July 13, 2022 at 10:00 in the morning,” the one-page order from Presiding Judge Dolly Rose Bolante-Prado, as shared by Bulatlat.com, read.

Named as respondents in the complaint are NTC, the National Security Council and Esperon.

Alipato Media Center, publisher of Bulatlat.com, filed a complaint on July 8 to ask the court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order and a Writ of Preliminary Injunction to enjoin the NTC from enforcing its memorandum that ordered the immediate blocking of Bulatlat's website and of more than 20 other groups.

Ultimately, Bulatlat, through its counsels from the National Union of Peoples Lawyers, asked the court to nullify NTC’s memorandum and award them with P1.00 for damage.

Bulatlat asserted that it is engaged in news and not in being "affiliated to and...supporting" terrorists, assailing what Esperon wrote in his letter-request to NTC to justify the blocking of the public’s access to more than 20 websites, including those of Bulatlat and alternative news magazine PinoyWeekly.

The online news site also denied being affiliated to or supporting terrorists and terrorist organizations.

"As there is no factual or legal bases therefore, none of them designated, much less being prosecuted for any of the prohibited acts under the Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020," it added. Designation, a power given to the Anti-Terrorism Council, is different from proscription, which is done by a court.

Alarms have been raised by Esperon’s letter, made public a week before he steped down as national security adviser, over the arbitrariness of the order, supposedly based on the powers of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, that not only covered independent media websites but also of progressive groups.

Bulatlat.com is one of the media groups red-tagged by the Duterte government. Last week, press organizations National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) were also accused by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict of having ties to the Communist Party of the Philippines and of being propagandists for communist rebels.

Read our fact check on that here.

HERMOGENES ESPERON

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