Philippine media

Bulatlat’s site now accessible after it asked court to hold NTC in contempt

Jairo Bolledo

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Bulatlat’s site now accessible after it asked court to hold NTC in contempt

MEDIA. Journalists of on field work.

Janess Ellao/Bulatlat

(1st UPDATE) ‘This is an initial victory for press freedom and the people's right to access credible sources of information,’ Bulatlat says 
Bulatlat’s site now accessible after it asked court to hold NTC in contempt

MANILA, Philippines – Alternative news organization Bulatlat said their website is now accessible as of Friday, August 26, a day after they asked the court to hold the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in contempt.  

“Bulatlat welcomes the apparent unblocking of our website a day after we filed contempt charges against the National Telecommunications Commission,” Bulatlat said. “This is an initial victory for press freedom and the people’s right to access credible sources of information.” 

On August 25, Bulatlat filed a petition for indirect contempt before the Quezon City court against the NTC after the latter allegedly continued to defy the court’s order. The injunction, issued by the court, ordered the NTC to unblock Bulatlat’s website. 

Delays in unblocking

It was on August 17 when Bulatlat’s website became accessible to the public after a Quezon City court told the NTC to unblock the website. However, the news organization said their site was not entirely accessible to their readers. 

By procedure, the unblocking should have been implemented then since the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 306 had already issued the preliminary injunction on August 16. The injunction meant the court told the NTC to lift its obstruction of Bulatlat’s website.

The order was issued after the alternative news organization was able to post a bond of P100,000. The payment of the bond was the court’s condition for issuing the writ of preliminary injunction. The bond was to cover for damages the defendants might suffer due to the injunction. 

Bulatlat’s journey

To comply with the court’s condition, the alternative news organization – also a nonprofit – needed to raise funds. Bulatlat looked for 5,000 individuals who would donate P20 each to produce the P100,000 bond.

After the NTC blocked Bulatlat’s website upon the request of former national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the news organization sought the court’s help.

Esperon had earlier written to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba on June 6, requesting “Philippine Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block access” to several websites that included Bulatlat, because they were supposedly affiliated with, and supporting “terrorists and terrorist organizations.” He did not, however, provide any proof except previous resolutions of the anti-terror council designating the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front as terrorists.

Bulatlat filed a civil case before the court with a prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or the writ. The same court denied Bulatlat’s request for a TRO. However, on August 11, Quezon City RTC Branch 306 granted the news organization’s prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction.

Bulatlat’s site now accessible after it asked court to hold NTC in contempt

In explaining the court decision, Judge Dolly Rose Bolante-Prado listed at least two requisites for granting Bulatlat’s plea. 

One was being able to prove that the news website has “clear and unmistakable” rights to be protected by the Constitution under the freedom of speech and of the press provision. Second was the court finding that there was “material and substantial invasion” of Bulatlat’s rights after its site became inaccessible.

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.