Supreme Court junks ABS-CBN’s TRO petition over 3 months since shutdown

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 25 2020 01:25 PM | Updated as of Aug 25 2020 03:33 PM

Supreme Court junks ABS-CBN’s TRO petition over 3 months since shutdown 1
Press Freedom advocates hold a creative protest against the denial of the network's franchise application outside the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center in Quezon City on the eve of President Rodrigo Duterte's 5th State of the Nation Address on July 26, 2020. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (UPDATE) – The Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday voted to dismiss the plea of ABS-CBN Corp. to stop the closure order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in May, the high court's spokesman said.

In a unanimous vote, the magistrates present voted to junk the petition on the ground of being moot since the House of Representatives denied the corporation’s bid to renew its franchise in July, according to SC spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka.

Associate Justice Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla is on leave.

A source, however, told ABS-CBN News that one justice would have voted to grant the status quo ante order and the petition but ended up concurring in the result following the denial of the franchise and because it was not raised as an issue in the petition.

"According to the Court, in light of the supervening denial of the pending House Bills for the renewal of ABS-CBN Corporation’s legislative franchise on July 10, 2020, the Court finds it appropriate to dismiss the case on the ground of mootness," Hosaka said in a statement.

"Because of this supervening event, there is no actual substantial relief which ABS-CBN Corporation would be entitled to regardless of the Court’s disposition of the merits of the Petition."

Although ABS-CBN may ask for a reconsideration of the decision, the Supreme Court rarely reverses a unanimous vote.

The dismissal comes more than 3 months after ABS-CBN sought relief before the Supreme Court following the closure order issued by the NTC on May 4, the lapse of its 25-year broadcast franchise, which was implemented on May 5.

This halted ABS-CBN's free television and radio broadcast. 

ABS-CBN filed the petition for certiorari and prohibition on May 7, alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of NTC to issue a cease and desist order instead of deferring to Congress and issuing a provisional authority to allow its stations to continue broadcasting.

NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba in March promised to issue a provisional authority but the Office of the Solicitor General pressured the NTC at the last minute to issue a CDO instead, based on a document obtained by ABS-CBN News shortly after the shutdown. 

Cordoba confirmed this to senators in a hearing in late May.

It was also the OSG that filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN Corp. and ABS-CBN Convergence in February seeking to revoke its franchise over alleged violations, but the Supreme Court junked the petition in June for being moot and academic since ABS-CBN’s franchise had lapsed on May 4 and had already been shut down.

The House of Representatives, in a 70-11 vote in July, killed the franchise renewal bid of the corporation after several hearings on supposed legal violations even as several government agencies cleared the network.

The corporation has begun retrenching employees, shutting down lines of business, and downsizing operations.