"Supporters of ABS-CBN can only hope that the lawyers of their favorite broadcast network have put together a case strong enough to convince the Supreme Court."
The lawyers of this country’s largest radio-television network last week filed with the Supreme Court a petition for the issuance of a TRO (temporary restraining order) against the NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) CDO ordering ABS-CBN to cease and desist from operating further. A TRO is a “plain, speedy and effectual” means allowed by the Rules of Court for a person or entity to seek to prevent irreparable damage to its interests before a court of competent authority has taken action on a legal issue.
The nation’s highest tribunal may see fit to issue the TRO, or it may not. As a result of the NTC CDO’s issuance, ABS-CBN and several of its affiliates signed off in the evening of May 5. ABS-CBN’s franchise expired on May 4.
The 15 members of the Supreme Court are expected to take note – the correct phrase is “take judicial notice” – of all the things that take place in this country, and the stories that have been appearing in the media have undoubtedly made them conversant with the facts of the ABS-CBN franchise controversy. But whether a majority of the justices have or have not decided in their minds to grant the sought-for TRO is something that the people of this country do not know. ABS-CBN may get its TRO, or it may not.
This is not the case with that other court which, having no Constitutional mandate, is not authorized to issue TROs but which arguably is the most powerful court in the land. I refer to the court of public opinion. If it were authorized to do so, the court of public opinion would have lost no time granting ABS-CBN the anti-NTC TRO that it is seeking.
A TRO should be granted when the court is convinced that the petition is not without merit and the petition deserves to be heard before irreparable damage is caused to its interests by adverse official or private action. The court of public opinion would not have deviated from this norm in resolving the ABS-CBN petition.
The Kapamilya network assuredly enjoys enormous popularity and respect among Filipinos here and overseas. But the magistrates of the court of public opinion – the vast family of Kapamilya listeners and televiewers – would not vote to grant the TRO solely on the basis of their administration for and trust in petitioner ABS-CBN. They would base it mainly on a collection of indisputable facts, positing to the irrationality and unnecessariness of the NTC action.
First and foremost of these facts is the grant by the NTC, in years past, of a provisional authority to operate to a number of leading institutions and enterprises whose renewal applications were still pending at the time their franchises expired. The Solicitor General must have been aware of these precedents when he threatened the NTC with prosecution under the Anti-Graft and Court Practices Act. So, why were Gamaliel Cordoba and his fellow-Commissioners terrified by the Solicitor General’s threat? Were they inferring that ABS-CBN’s renewal application was an application like no other?
Another fact that the court of public opinion could cite in support of a pro-TRO decision would be the lately-expressed sentiments of the leaders of both houses of Congress. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, from which franchises must originate, had said that ABS-CBN would not cease to operate when its franchise expired, and the chairman of the House committee on franchises, after prolonged unwillingness to calendar the ABS-CBN franchise renewal application for committee discussion, finally placed it on the committee calendar. In addition, the president of the Senate shepherded through that chamber a resolution calling for early Congressional action on ABS-CBN’s franchise.
Finally, the court of public opinion would take into account the fact that ABS-CBN has been a good – nay, a very good – corporate citizen, which has been shown by the success it has achieved in the broadcast industry and the esteem and affection it enjoys among Filipinos here and abroad. Abruptly serving a cease and desist order is how authorities should treat a corporate scoundrel, not an honored 75-year-old business establishment.
Powerful though it be, the court of public opinion unfortunately does not have authority to grant TROs. That authority belongs to the Supreme Court and other courts recognized by the Constitution as parts of this country’s judiciary. Supporters of ABS-CBN can only hope that the lawyers of their favorite broadcast network have put together a case strong enough to convince the Supreme Court to grant the desired TRO.