Court orders NTC to stop blocking Bulatlat website

Court orders NTC to stop blocking Bulatlat website
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.

MANILA, Philippines — Bulatlat reported Friday that they have scored a legal victory at a Quezon City court, which has ordered the National Telecommunications Commission to stop blocking the alternative news outlet’s website until the court decides on questions on the legality of the NTC order. 

In a tweet, Bulatlat said Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 306 Judge Dolly Rose Bolante-Prado granted its application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction against the NTC memorandum.

"To the court, any limitation or restriction in the exercise of one’s right, no matter the extent, and for even minimal periods of time, is a form of deprivation, and clearly, a violation of such right," Bolante-Prado wrote in her decision, a portion of which was posted by Bulatlat.

The issuance of the writ is conditioned on Bulatlat’s posting of a bond in the amount of P100,000 either in cash or by surety, which will answer for the damages the defendants would suffer due to the injunction should it be proven that the news outlet is not entitled to it.

Bulatlat’s website was among the more than 20 sites which was ordered to be blocked by the NTC upon the request of former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who accused the sites of "being affiliated to and are supporting" communist rebels.

In his letter to the NTC, Esperon cited the government’s terrorist designation of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as basis for the blocking of the websites.

Bulatlat has argued that it is not a designated organization and that it is not affiliated with the CPP-NPA-NDF. It also said there is no legal basis for the NTC to block access to its website.

Under Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, designation only triggers the power of the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze the assets of designated groups. 

During oral arguments, government lawyers reiterated this before Supreme Court justices and the Department of Justice affirmed this position. — Xave Gregorio with a report from Kristine Joy Patag



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