NUPL seeks TRO vs NTC order blocking websites with links to terror groups
MANILA, Philippines —Neither a rule book, guideline nor law empowers the National Telecommunications Commission to order the blocking of websites of cause-oriented groups and independent media outfits, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said Friday.
NUPLs statement is contained in a case filed before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, which seeks to nullify the NTCs order blocking 26 websites, including Bulatlat, an independent news website. The complaint is also praying for an award of P1 exemplary damages.
They also asked that a restraining order be issued to stop the implementation of the NTC order temporarily.
Aside from the NTC, also named defendant in the complaint is former National Security Council Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
The NTC issued the memorandum that blocked the 26 websites, including that of Bulatlat, in response to Esperon’s letter request.
On June 6, Esperon sent a letter to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba requesting that an order be issued to internet service providers in the country to block access to 26 websites that are “affiliated to and are supporting” designated terrorists and terrorist groups.
Two days later, the NTC issued the memorandum to all ISPs in the country to “immediately block” the websites.
No legal basis
NUPL, which represents Bulatlat in the complaint, said the NTC order has no basis in law.
“Nowhere in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020 has the NTC, the National Security Adviser, the National Security Council or the Anti-Terrorism Council been given the power to block cybertraffic nor content data more so if based on reckless suspicions of terrorist activities nor due to conclusory claims of alleged affiliations with designated individuals or groups,” NUPLC said.
It added that even the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 does not permit such state action.
In his letter to NTC, Esperon cited three resolutions of the Anti-Terror Council designating organizations and individuals as terrorists. But NUPL said none of the resolutions include Bulatlat and the other organizations whose websites have been blocked.
“It bears noting that Plaintiff is not a designated terrorist entity, not to mention that the blocking of a website is not sanctioned by the ATA [Anti-Terrorim Act] as one of the consequences of being designated as a terrorist,” read the complaint.
NUPL said the only effect of designation under Section 25 of the ATA is the freezing of assets upon order of the Anti-Money Laundering Council. Therefore, the only content-related process in the ATA would be the surveillance of communications by suspected and designated terrorists, subject to the Court of Appeals order.
Bulatlat and the other organizations whose websites have been blocked were only identified as “affiliates” of terrorist groups.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier admitted that nothing under the ATA mentions the word “affiliate.”
No due process
NUPL said NTC acted as “judge, jury, and executioner” when it granted Esperon’s request without notice and hearing.
It added that NTC even ignored their request for a copy of the memorandum issued to ISPs based in the country.
“So we again seek today judicial redress and remedy to enjoin these legal bullying and as a warning shot to those in the present administration to stop in its noticeable attempts to rewrite, revise and reject historical facts and present realities,” the NUPL said.
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