Reverse decision denying TRO vs NTC memo, Bulatlat urges court

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Bulatlat has filed a motion for reconsideration before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 306 today, July 22, urging the latter to reverse its earlier decision denying the prayer for temporary restraining order against the National Telecommunications (NTC) memo.

Copy of the filed Urgent Motion for Reconsideration on the court’s decision about the NTC memo to block Bulatlat.com’s website.

The NTC memo dated June 8, 2022 has directed all internet service providers to block the website of Bulatlat, and the websites of 26 other groups, including another media outfit Pinoy Weekly. On July 13, Judge Dolly Jose Bolante-Prado denied the petition for TRO, saying that “there is clearly no suppression of the constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech” as the court was able to access the website.

In its appeal, Bulatlat argues that the NTC order violates constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, particularly freedom of the press and free expression. Even as counsels for the defendants NTC and for former National Security Advisor Hermogenes Esperon Jr. were able to access Bulatlat.com during the July 13 hearing, Bulatlat says that “the fact remains that the blocking is still in place pursuant to the assailed Memorandum.”

In its motion, Bulatlat states that the court should not have been confined to determining whether it can still access Bulatlat.com from an electronic device at any given time. “Plaintiff [Bulatlat] humbly submits that the inquiry ought to have been to ascertain whether such an impediment imposed by Defendants [NTC and Esperon] is valid.”

Bulatlat’s number of unique web visitors has dropped by 43 percent since the NTC memo was issued.

“The number of lost Bulatlat.com readers is rather critical and, with due respect, quite the opposite of this Honorable Court’s observation that the same is ‘of no moment,’ ‘irrelevant’ and a mere ‘inconvenience.’ It demonstrates that Defendants’ design to censor Bulatlat.com through the assailed Memorandum has succeeded to a significant extent,” the motion read.

Bulatlat further states that the NTC memo “constitutes prior restraint as it censors Bulatlat.com off the internet in advance of actual publication.”

“…[i]t is directed at the content of the websites, which, according to Defendants NTC, NSC, and Esperon, were ‘found to be affiliated to and supporting terrorists and terrorist organizations,’” it said.

In its motion, Bulatlat pointed out that during the July 13, 2022 hearing, lawyers of the NTC and of Esperon failed to show that they are acting under a lawful court order to counter Bulatlat’s claim that there was a material and substantial invasion of its rights.

Bulatlat asserts further, “the assailed Memorandum is presumed unconstitutional and has been shown to be in breach of the rule, which recognizes no exception, that there can be no content-based prior restraint on protected expression.”

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) serves as the legal counsels of Bulatlat.

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