NTC order blocking websites can be questioned before courts: lawyer

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 27 2022 03:12 PM | Updated as of Jun 27 2022 04:26 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE) – The National Telecommunications Commission's (NTC) order to block access to a number of news websites in the Philippines can be questioned in court, a lawyer said Monday.

“Doon ho sa rules ng NTC, Under Rule 13 Section 2, pwede silang maghain ng motion for reconsideration para kwestiyonin yung order ng nag-iisang commissioner sa mga telecoms na isara or i-block yung website nila,” said Atty. Domingo Cayosa, former national president Intergated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

(Under Rule 13 Section 2 in the NTC, websites can file a motion for reconsideration questioning the order of one commissioner asking telcos to block access to their websites.)

“Pwede rin ho nila itong kwestiyonin sa korte, certiorari, grave abuse of discretion, kasi nga ho, walang basehan yung order kung titingnan natin ang existing laws,” he added.

(They can also question this in court, file a request for certiorari, for grave abuse of discretion, because the order has no basis when you look at existing laws.)

The IBP had previously said that the NTC does not have the authority to block news websites based on the National Security Adviser's request.

Cayosa noted that the NTC did not follow the proper procedure before blocking the news websites.

“Malinaw naman doon sa 2006 rules of procedure ng NTC, eh kailangang dumadaan yan sa due process. Yun bang, kung merong nagre-request or nagco-complain tungkol sa isang website, gaya ng ginawa ni Secretary Esperon, request letter lang 'yon, ang dapat ginawa ng NTC eh binigyan ng pagkakataon, sinabihan yung mga nakalista doon at binigyan sila ng pagkakataong sumagot o kaya i-oppose yung request at 'yan ay kailangang backed with evidence,” he said.

(It is clear from NTC's rules of procedure from 2006 that due process must be followed. If someone complains about a website, the NTC should give websites a chance to explain or oppose the request to shut them down. And the request must be backed by evidence.)

“Pag-iisipan, susuriin ng NTC as a collegial body, quasi-judicial body, saka lang sila magre-release ng desisyon o kautusan,” he added.

(The NTC must study these and decide on the request as a collegial body.)

Cayosa also said that NTC orders must be signed by a majority of its commissioners.

“Tatlo ang commissioners. Isa lang ang pumirma doon sa order na kwestiyonable,” he said.

(There are 3 commissioners but only one signed the questionable order.)

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon early this month asked the NTC to block access to websites of the Communist Party of the Philippines, National Democratic Front, other entities with alleged links to the communist movement, and some alternative media.

The news outfits have criticized the NTC and Esperon, saying there was no due process before their websites got blocked and no pieces of evidence were presented.

In a separate interview, Esperon said Cayosa's statements against the NTC are unfair.

“It’s not fair to say na wala silang ginawang aksyon. Let’s see, tanungin natin ang NTC kung anong legal action and ginawa nila (It's not fair to say that NTC did not take any action. Let's see and ask them what legal actions they did). But as far as I’m concerned, we have more than enough basis to ask for this action from NTC," he said.

“Mukhang off-the-cuff yung remarks na 'yan kasi they received the letter on ah… June 6 yung letter ko noh, June 8 natanggap na ng ano, NTC. And theses actions came about, lumabas na 'to ng June 20. So dumaan na 'yan sa kanilang opisina, including the legal office,” said Esperon.

(It seems those remarks are off-the-cuff... My letter was sent June 6. NTC received it June 8. Actions came about on June 20. So this already passed through their legal office.)

The official spoke at the sidelines of the launch of a book written by former communist rebels.

--TeleRadyo, 27 June 2022