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ABS-CBN runs to Supreme Court to stop NTC shutdown

MANILA, Philippines – Broadcast giant ABS-CBN filed on Thursday, May 7, a petition for an injunction to stop as soon as possible the implementation of the National Telecommunications' (NTC) cease and desist order that forced the channel to go off the air, the first time since Martial Law.

In a petition for certiorari and prohibition, ABS-CBN asked the Supreme Court for a writ of preliminary injunction and a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).

An injunction and TRO would halt the implementation of the cease and desist order, and would theoretically allow ABS-CBN to go back on air.

In the legal process, a court may issue a TRO while it resolves the main petition.

The main petition wants to void the NTC shutdown order entirely.

"It seeks to nullify and set aside the May 5, 2020, Order of the NTC, insofar as it ordered ABS-CBN to immediately cease and desist from operating radio and television stations," said the petition.

ABS-CBN invoked equal protection as it argued that the NTC broke its own precedent of allowing broadcasters with expired franchises to operate in the interim while the renewal is being processed by Congress.

NTC's own memo

ABS-CBN also cited the NTC's own memorandum on March 16 that automatically renewed all permits that would expire within the quarantine period.

The memorandum said, "All subsisting permits, permits necessary to operate and maintain broadcast and pay TV facilities nationwide expiring within the quarantine period shall automatically be renewed and shall continue to be valid 60 days after the end of the government-imposed quarantine period."

"ABS-CBN considered this memorandum order as applicable to it since its franchise (and provisional authority) was set to expire on May 4, 2020," said the petition.

The company also cited the violation of due process, saying that the cease and desist order was served without the commission holding hearings first.

"There is also no urgent or paramount necessity for the issuance of the Cease and Desist Order. On the contrary, it is the closure of ABS-CBN that will cause serious and irreparable damage not only to ABS-CBN but, more importantly, to public interest," said ABS-CBN.

The company also invoked freedom of speech, saying that "ABS-CBN cannot be closed without compromising the fundamental guarantees of freedom of speech and the press." (READ: ABS-CBN to Supreme Court: NTC order violates press freedom)

The Supreme Court is still deliberating Solicitor General Jose Calida's quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN's previous franchise, but Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that may already be moot because the franchise had already expired. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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