Bulatlat asks QC RTC to reconsider denied TRO vs NTC block order
MANILA, Philippines — Independent media outlet Bulatlat on Friday asked the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QCRTC) to reconsider its order refusing to issue a temporary restraining order against a memorandum of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) blocking access to its website.
In its motion submitted to QCRTC Branch 306, they maintained that the memorandum issued by the NTC is a content-based prior restraint on a protected expression, which is unconstitutional. The protected expression does not conflict with any unprotected expression, including pornography, false or misleading advertising, or advocating imminent lawless acts.
“Bulatlat.com’s news reports and commentaries seek to reflect the Filipino people’s views and stand on such paramount issues as human rights, civil liberties, national patrimony, environment, and the rights and welfare of marginalized sectors. These are political expressions that must remain uninhibited, robust, wide open, and are deserving of utmost protection,” read the motion.
The NTC’s order was in response to a June 6 letter request of former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon to block the websites of 26 affiliates of designated terrorists and terrorist groups.
Two days later, the NTC issued the memorandum to all ISPs in the country to “immediately block” the websites.
Bulatlat, through the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (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.”
During the hearing last July 13, no evidence was presented to show that the memorandum is not being implemented. On the contrary, the highlight of the hearing was only when the court and lawyers representing Esperon and the NTC could access Bulatlat despite the reported blocking.
To date, NUPL said due to the NTC’s order, Bulatlat, from an average of 54,907 monthly unique visitors, it dropped to only 31,136. It added that Bulatlat lost 43 percent of its monthly subscribers.
“The number of lost is rather critical and, with due respect, quite the opposite of this Honorable Court’s observation that the same is ‘of no moment,’ ‘irrelevant’ and a mere ‘inconveniece.’ It demonstrates that Defendants’ design to censor bulatlat.com through the assailed Memorandum has succeeded to a significant extent.”
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