Editor's note: We are publishing in full statements issued by various groups and institutions in support of ABS-CBN Corp., which went off the air on May 5, 2020 following a cease and desist order from the National Telecommunications Commission. The company's franchise expired on May 4, while bills for its franchise renewal, some filed since 2016, continued to languish in Congress.
IS IT FAIR?
IS IT FOR THE GREATER GOOD?
The interrelated actions and pronouncements of government officials and offices, the latest of which is the order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation (ABS-CBN) to stop airing its radio and television programs upon the expiration of its franchise on May 4, 2020 raise a number of constitutional and legal issues which should be resolved PROMPTLY in the proper forum. DELAY is not good governance.
Even as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) champions the rule of law which includes settled principles such as: “no one is above the law”, “the law may be harsh but it is the law”, “equal protection of the law”, “separation of powers”, “checks and balances” and many other legal maxims, we earnestly ask:
1) Is it fair for Congress to keep the numerous bills for the renewal of the franchise of the first radio-television company in Southeast Asia (1953) and the biggest in the Philippines, pending for more than three years, and let the franchise expire?
2) Is it fair for the NTC to commit that a provisional authority to operate would be in order while the franchise bill is being deliberated upon by Congress but at the last minute order the company to stop airing its programs?
3) Is it fair for government to allow other media companies to continue operating even after the expiration of their franchises but firmly close down a company which is publicly identified and singled out to be more vocal and critical?
4) Is it fair for different agencies and branches of government to issue contradictory opinions and directives upon which the tens of thousands of stockholders, employees and related businesses, and millions of viewers and listeners of the media company have to rely?
The rule of law is not a technical tool that people in power wield at their passion or discretion. Rule of law is fundamental fairness that binds a nation and country together for the greater common good. Rule of law unites not spites, it fosters cooperation not division, it heals not kills. The judicious application of the real essence of the rule of law is imperative considering the impact of the ABS-CBN controversy to our cherished freedoms of expression and of the press and to our treasured rights to information, due process, accountability of public officials, and a transparent, empowering government.
The IBP respectfully urges the concerned government officials and offices as public servants and trustees to do their sworn duty well and without delay or recrimination. The NTC may accord ABS-CBN a provisional permit to operate as it has allowed others similarly situated to continue operating. Congress may quickly deliberate and independently vote on the pending ABS-CBN franchise bills as it had passed laws within days, the latest of which is the Bayanihan Law. The courts may forthrightly resolve the related cases pending before them and those that may be brought to them. Politicians and government officials may coordinate better to pursue and inspire real reconciliation as well as principled progress and genuine peace in our land which we sorely need in these challenging times.
The Filipino lawyers stand with our countrymen in vigilance and hope for basic fairness and the greater common good.
Integrated Bar of the Philippines
IBP 24th Board of Governors