By Arjane Faith Paala

PHOTO: Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

In response to its ordered website blockage rooted from terrorism accusations, alternative media outlet Bulatlat has filed a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction against the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) mandate in a Quezon City court on Friday.

“ are not in any way affiliated to and/or are supporting terrorist or terrorist organizations… As there is no factual or legal bases therefore, none of them is designated, much less being prosecuted for any of the prohibited act under [Republic Act] 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,” complaint of Alipato Media Center Inc., Bulatlat’s publisher, read.  

Represented by the National Union of Philippine Lawyers (NUPL), Alipato Media Center called for the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to nullify NTC’s memorandum and award P1.00 for exemplary damage.

In their appeal, Bulatlat asserted that the government’s threatening response to their critical reports and progressive commentaries breaches the 1987 Constitution which protects freedom of the press, speech, and expression.

NTC issued a memorandum on June 8, after National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.’s request, ordering internet service providers to block the public’s access to 27 websites that are allegedly affiliated with Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), including legitimate news sites Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly. 

Restore the truth

The Reporters Without Borders (RBF) had previously petitioned last month for the websites to be restored, while the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) concurrently stated NTC has no power to restrict these news sites based on ‘mere allegations,’ but both fell on deaf ears.

RSF Asia-Pacific desk head Daniel Bastard noted that Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly were among news outlets that have been red-tagged and constantly receiving cyber attacks since December 2018.

“We call on NTC commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba to order the immediate restoration of access to these two news sites, whose only crime is to have done investigative reporting that clearly annoys the government,” Bastard said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), moreover, still protests up to date and described the continuous attacks and attempts of the government to silence the press as a part of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s legacy.

Red-tagging and blocking independent media outlets, ABS-CBN shutdown, and pursuit to halt Rappler’s operations all happened under the Duterte administration.

 Copyedited by Nehmia Elyxa Relano