• Censorship foes told: Right but late move

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    THE Supreme Court (SC) has junked a petition filed by several broadcast journalists and media organizations questioning orders of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) that allegedly prohibit airing of anything that tends to be rebellious during the Arroyo administration.

    In a resolution, the tribunal affirmed rulings of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated May 30, 2007 and October 3, 2007 holding that “the proper recourse that should have been taken by the petitioners was to question the constitutionality of the assailed NTC memorandum circulars before the RTC [Regional Trial Court] though an ordinary action for their nullification.”

    The SC stated that the petition was not filed on time, thus the assailed decision had become final and no longer subject to review.

    The petitioners included Philippine Press Institute, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Newsbreak, Probe Productions, Ricky Carandang, Arnold Clavio, Malou Mangahas, Tina Monzon-Palma and Henry Omaga-Diaz.

    On February 24, 2006, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Presidential Proclamation (PP) 1017 declaring a state of national emergency.

    She also issued General Order 5 directing the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines “to immediately carry out the necessary and appropriate actions and measures to suppress and prevent acts of terrorism and lawless violence.”

    Thereafter, then PNP Director-General Arturo Lomibao allegedly made thinly veiled threats of administrative sanctions, temporary takeover, closure and/or criminal prosecution if the national media were to publish or air reports that contribute to national instability.

    On March 3, 2006, Arroyo issued PP 1021 declaring cessation of the national emergency.

    Despite this, the petitioners said, Lomibao, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and NTC Chairman Ronald Solis allegedly continued to threaten the press, directly and indirectly, to toe the line or they will face administrative or criminal sanctions.

    They filed their petition with the CA but the appellate court denied the same, prompting them to seek redress with the high tribunal.

    In its decision, promulgated by Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal, the SC held that it “cannot subscribe to the petitioners’ argument that the issuance of the assailed NTC memorandum circulars involved the exercise of a quasi-judicial power given their proposition that the determination of what is subversive or rebellious is not a legislative function but a judicial act.”

    “The court refrains from touching the constitutional issues raised by the petitioners, which should be threshed out in an appropriate proceeding filed before the proper court.”

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