SC junks ABS-CBN petition for being moot, academic

August 25, 2020

THE Supreme Court yesterday junked the petition of ABS-CBN Corporation questioning the legality of the cease-and-desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission.

In an en banc session, the high court resolved to dismiss the petition for being moot and academic following Congress’ decision rejecting the ABS-CBN's application for franchise renewal.

"In light of the supervening denial of the pending House bills for the renewal of ABS CBN Corporation's legislative franchise on July 10, 2020, the Court finds it appropriate to dismiss the case on the ground of mootness."

"Because of this supervening event, there is no actual substantial relief which ABS-CBN Corporation would be entitled to regardless of the Court's disposition of the merits of the petition," the SC said.

The decision was unanimous except for Justice Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla who took no part as she was on leave. Senior Associate Justice Estela M Perlas-Bernabe was the member-in-charge in the case.

In a cease-and-desist order, the National Telecommunications Commission ordered ABS-CBN to stop operating its various television and radio broadcasting stations nationwide "absent a valid franchise as required by law."

Likewise, the NTC ordered its regional offices to implement the closure order in their areas of jurisdiction.

Listed on the halt order are 42 television stations across the country, including the flagship Channel 2, 10 digital broadcast channels, 18 FM stations and 5 AMstations, including DZMM radio.

The NTC order prompted ABS-CBN to question before the SC the legality of the order, and seek the issuance of a temporary restraining order.

In a 46-page petition, ABS-CBN also asked the high court to set aside the NTC's order and declare a permanent injunction against its implementation.

ABS-CBN said the NTC gravely abused its discretion when it issued the order, instead of deferring to Congress and issuing a provisional authority to allow ABS-CBN and its stations to continue operating.

ABS-CBN said the issuance of the order deviated from past practice and violated its right to equal protection of the law as well its right to due process because it was issue without due notice and hearing.

The order, ABS-CBN said, also violated the right of the public to information and curtail freedom of speech, as well as cause serious and irreparable damage on ABS-CBN and thousands of its employees if its implementation is not halted.

ABS-CBN also filed an urgent motion for special raffle so that the petition may be assigned immediately to a division.

But the House Committee on Legislative Franchises voted to deny the franchise application of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation.

The panel adopted the Technical Working Group’s (TWG) Committee Resolution recommending the denial of the network's franchise application through 70 yes votes, 11 no votes, two inhibitions and one abstention.