QC court orders NTC to stop blocking Bulatlat website
MANILA, Philippines – A Quezon City court has ordered the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to stop blocking independent media outlet Bulatlat pending a final decision on the case.
In a decision dated August 11, 2022, Judge Dolly Rose Bolante-Prado of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 306 granted Bulatlat’s application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction against the NTC memorandum, which blocked access to the news outlet’s website.
“Evidently, there is violation or curtailment of plaintiff’s (Bulatlat) right to free speech and of the press when its publisher’s and readers’ access to its website was limited,” the order read.
It then noted: “To the Court, any limitation or restriction in the exercise of one’s right, no matter the extent, and for even minimal periods of time, is a form of deprivation, and clearly, a violation of such right.”
The writ will be issued only if Bulatlat posts a P100,000 bond, either in cash or by a surety. The decision said that the bond “will answer for the damages the defendants would suffer because of the injunction” if it turns out that the news outlet doesn’t deserve it.
An order from the NTC on June 8 blocked Bulatlat’s website and 25 others.
NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba signed the order at the request of National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon. The websites were “found to be affiliated with and support terrorists and terrorist organizations.”
Bulatlat, represented by the National Union of People’s Lawyers, has since sought to nullify the NTC order, arguing that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 does not grant the NTC nor the NSA “power to block cybertraffic nor content data moreso if based on reckless suspicions of terrorist activities nor due to conclusory claims of alleged affiliations with designated individuals or groups.”