The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) violated the people’s right to due process for ordering an immediate blocking of websites allegedly linked to "communist-terrorists,” a constitutional law expert said Monday.
Former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Atty. Domingo Cayosa said the NTC violated its own 2006 Rules of Practice and Procedure when it ordered internet service providers (ISPs) to block over 20 sites upon request by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
“Kung merong nagre-request o nagko-complain tungkol sa isang website gaya ng ginawa ni Secretary Esperon, ang dapat ginawa ng NTC ay binigyan ng pagkakataon, sinabihan ‘yung mga nakalista doon, at binigyan sila ng pagkakataon na sumagot o kaya i-oppose ‘yung request,” Cayosa said in a radio interview.
“‘Yan ay kailangan backed with evidence, pag-iisipan, susuriin ng NTC as a collegial body. Saka lang sila magre-release ng desisyon o kautusan. Ang nangyari kasi, within two days from the letter request ay biglang nag-order na i-block immediately ‘yung mga websites,” he added.
(If someone requests or complains about a website as Secretary Esperon did, what the NTC should have done was inform those listed there and give them a chance to respond or oppose the request. That needs to be backed with evidence, and be thought out and reviewed by the NTC as a collegial body. Only after that could they release a decision or an order. But what happened was that within two days from the letter request, NTC suddenly ordered the websites to be blocked immediately.)
Cayosa further pointed out that only one out of the three NTC commissioners signed the order as opposed to Rule 12, Section 1 of NTC’s Rules of Practice and Procedure that “all orders, resolutions, and/or decisions shall be signed by the majority of all the Commissioners.”
Among the sites blocked by the NTC were those of progressive groups Save Our Schools Network, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Pamalakaya Pilipinas, and BAYAN. It also included independent news organizations Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) earlier denounced the act, stressing that only seven out of the over 20 NTC-blocked websites are affiliated with them and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
CPP stressed that what Esperon did was a form of censorship and suppression of the people’s right to free speech against the incoming Marcos administration.
Cayosa also said that it may cause a “chilling effect” in the media industry, but hoped that it would not falter the journalists as they have an obligation to provide information to the public.
Bulatlat said NTC's action was a “brazen violation” of its right to free speech and free press as provided for under the Philippine Constitution.
The Altermidya Network, of which Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly are members, also called on the NTC to reverse the order.
GMA News Online sought comment from the NTC and Esperon but they have yet to reply as of posting time.—AOL, GMA News