No SC action yet on ABS-CBN's urgent TRO plea vs broadcast shutdown

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 08 2020 03:27 PM

MANILA – The Supreme Court on Friday did not act on ABS-CBN Corp’s plea for a temporary restraining order against the National Telecommunications Commission's (NTC) cease and desist issuance that pulled the plug on its broadcast operations Tuesday. 
In a statement, the high court said the case will be raffled Monday to a magistrate who will handle the case, "who will then make a recommendation for the consideration of the Court en Banc." 

SC sources told ABS-CBN News that the petition for certiorari and prohibition with a prayer for TRO filed Thursday was not discussed at all as it was not included in the SC en banc’s agenda.

“It was filed late yesterday (I think about 4 pm). Special raffle needs to be scheduled by the raffle committee. Then the member-in-charge needs to review to make a recommendation,” a source said, explaining that only then will SC justices decide whether or not to hold a special session.
ABS-CBN sought to set aside the NTC’s order stopping its broadcast operations saying the commission gravely abused its discretion when it issued the order instead of a provisional authority to operate, as the Senate and House Franchise committee instructed and as its officials had told lawmakers under oath. 

Congress has the sole power over legislative franchises. It has been sitting on several bills for the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise since September 2014. 

The network's 25-year license lapsed on May 4. It was ordered off the air on May 5. 
In its petition, the media giant said its rights to equal protection and due process were violated when it was singled out and treated differently from other companies whose franchises had also lapsed but were allowed to continue operating.

It also said it did not receive any notice of any complaint against its continued operation and was not given the chance to be heard.
In seeking an urgent TRO, ABS-CBN said the shutdown order violated the right of the public to information, curtailed freedom of speech and caused serious and irreparable damage on ABS-CBN and thousands of its employees if its implementation is not halted.

The broadcast halt came as the nation faced the coronavirus crisis and vital information was needed in far-flung areas, including those only reached by ABS-CBN. 

Also pending before the high court is a petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida seeking to invalidate ABS-CBN's franchise. On April 30, he wrote the NTC a letter saying it should issue a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN and warning that its officials could face graft charges if it instead issued provisional authority.