Court stands firm on order to stop NTC memo blocking Bulatlat website

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Court stands firm on order to stop NTC memo 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 — The Quezon City court stood firm on its order for the National Telecommunications Commission to stop blocking access to alternative news website Bulatlat as it rejected appeals filed by the commission and by former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 306 junked the two motions for reconsideration by the NTC and by Esperon in a ruling dated October 10, penned by Presiding Judge Dolly Rose Bolante-Prado.

The appellants sought to reverse the court’s August 11 ruling granting a writ of preliminary injunction on a June 8 NTC memorandum blocking the access to bulatlat.com and other websites.

"After carefully evaluating the arguments of all the parties, the Court resolves to deny the twin motions," the ruling read.

RELATED: Esperon has sites of news orgs, progressive groups blocked as 'communist affiliates'

Esperon claims blocking might not have been by NTC

In its appeal, the NTC argued that Bulatlat’s remedy is to have the regulatory body to recall the memorandum through a preliminary mandatory injunction. This is because, the NTC said, "there is nothing more to be prohibited or restrained since there is no further continuing act from [NTC]; the memorandum has already been issued and was effective."

But the court held that the issuance of a preliminary prohibition injunction to restrain NTC is proper. "It is the directive or instruction to block, a continuing act, and not the issuance, which is sought to be enjoined," it added.

The court also said it "sees no compelling ground to reverse its finding that the plaintiff was able to sufficiently establish all the requisites for the issuance of a preliminary injunction."

Esperon, in his motion, meanwhile told the court that Bulatlat failed to prove its cause of action against the NTC and him, and that the alleged blocking of the website was due to the assailed memorandum.

He raised that, supposedly, there is no proof that the blocking was due to the NTC memorandum.

But the court pointed out the subject memorandum "unequivocally directed all concerned ISPs in the country to block a number of websites including bulatlat.com."

"To conclude that the blocking was not due to the NTC Memorandum is simply an irrational insistence to ignore what is already obvious," the court added.

Bulatlat ran to the court to stop the NTC from enforcing its memorandum, following the request of Esperon to block access to more than 20 websites for being “affiliated to and are supporting terrorists.”

But Esperon’s list also included progressive groups and even independent news sites that have long been subjected to red-tagging.

Under the ATA and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, designation only triggers the power of the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze the assets of the listed groups.

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