Framers: ABS-CBN shutdown order defies 1987 Constitution

Camille Elemia
The closure comes 'at the worst of times' as the nation battles the coronavirus pandemic

CONSTITUTION. The framers of the 1987 Constitution says the government order shutting down ABS-CBN defies the country's charter. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Four framers of the 1987 Constitution said the National Telecommunication Commission’s closure order against ABS-CBN goes against the country’s charter. (READ: TIMELINE: Duterte against ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal)

Felicitas Arroyo, Florangel Rosario Braid, Ed Garcia, and Christian Monsod, who participated in the drafting of the constitution post-Martial Law, said the order comes “at the worst of times” as the nation battles the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far affected nearly 10,000 and killed almost 700 people.

“The NTC action in the face of the inactivity of Congress runs contrary to the mandates in the Constitution,” they said.

Article 16, Section 10 of the 1987 Constitution states that: “The State shall provide the policy environment for the full development of Filipino capability and the emergence of communication structures suitable to the needs and aspirations of the nation and the balanced flow of information into, out of, and across the country, in accordance with a policy that respects the freedom of speech and of the press.”

“It comes at a time when we are trying to contain a contagion that has brought our nation down on its knees. Never before did our country need to unify all our citizens where communication is crucial, and unimpeded independent media is vital,” the framers said in a statement.

“The ABS-CBN network with the widest reach in the country not only has the potential but in fact has been helping to inform and mobilize our people to put up our community defenses against the deadly coronavirus,” they said.

They also slammed the sudden flip-flopping of the NTC, which had previously told Congress it would issue a provisional permit while the network’s franchise renewal is pending. (READ: NTC grilled: Why did you promise ABS-CBN a temporary permit?)

“The turn of events otherwise through the initiative of the Solicitor General is a disservice to our people who are already struggling to survive on a day-to-day basis and look to responsible media to inform their decisions and actions in that regard,” they said.

A document obtained by ABS-CBN News showed that it was Solicitor General Jose Calida who pressured NTC officials to issue a cease and desist order against the company.

The 14-page letter – dated April 30 and signed by Calida and 6 assistant solicitors general – was addressed to NTC Gamaliel Cordoba and Deputy Commissioners Delilah Deles and Edgardo Cabarios.

The framers called on the public to speak up and exhibit the same courage Filipinos have previously shown “against repressive rule.” – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com