In shutting down ABS-CBN, lawyers say NTC bypassed Congress

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

“The NTC’s Order has preempted 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.”

By EMILY VITAL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Two groups of human rights lawyers raised constitutional issues over the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) cease and desist order against ABS-CBN.

In a statement, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) said the order “takes on grave constitutional significance because the pending bills in Congress may still be acted upon by Congress and the franchise may still be granted.”

“The power to grant, modify, or revoke franchises is a power reposed by the Constitution solely on Congress. The NTC’s Order has preempted 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,” FLAG said.

In a similar vein, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) branded the NTC’s cease and desist order as duplicitous, saying that the NTC is aware of the request of the House of Representatives for the NTC to extend the network’s franchise until the House has finished its own deliberations and the legal opinion of the Justice department that the NTC has the authority to do so.

“The Constitution demands that all gaps, doubts, or gray areas in the law that are tangential to basic freedoms must be resolved in favor of these fundamental rights,” the NUPL said. “For these freedoms are at the core of what makes us human — living not to simply exist and succumb to the grim realities of society imposed by an insensitive social order, but to also interrogate and shape it into something that better reflects our collective hopes and aspirations.”

Still, FLAG argued that the NTC is not the only one to blame for the media network’s shutdown but also the legislators who refused to hear the applications for franchise renewal, the Solicitor General who filed a quo warranto against the ABS-CBN and the DOJ who did not clarify what should be done.

Assault on press freedom

Both the NUPL and FLAG assailed the assault on press freedom.

“The NTC order is a deplorable assault on free press that further reveals that this administration is more interested in restricting basic freedoms than in containing a pandemic,” the NUPL said. “By resorting once again to outright suppression, this administration reveals that COVID-19 is not the only disease that besets us that spurs clamors for a cure,” the NUPL further said.

FLAG also said the cease and desist order “reflects a distorted sense of priorities that is inimical to the public interest.”

“The Order directly undermines the freedom of the press by singling out one network that had been publicly identified as having incurred the ire of the president…” FLAG said. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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