Monday, April 2, 2012

MTRCB v. ABS-CBN G.R. No. 155282. January 17, 2005

J. Sandoval Gutierrez

Facts:
 Respondent abs-cbn aired “Prosti-tuition”, an episode of the TV program “The Inside Story” produced and hosted by respondent Legarda. It depicted female students moonlighting as prostitutes to enable them to pay for their tuition fees.
 PWU was named as the school of some of the students involved and the fa├žade of the PWU building served as the background of the episode. This caused upsoar in the PWU community and they filed a letter-complaint to the MTRCB.
MTRCB alleged that respondents
1) Did not submit “the inside story” to petitioner for review
2) Exhibited the same without its permission, thus violating sec 7 of PD 1986 and some sections of MTRCB rules and regulations
ABS-CBN averred:
1) The Inside Story is a public affairs program, news documentary and socio-political editorial, its airing is protected by the constitutional provision on freedom of expression and of the press
2) Petitioners has no power, authority and jurisdiction to impose any form of prior restraint upon respondents.
After hearing and submission of the parties’ memoranda, MTRCB investigating committee ordered the respondents to pay P20,000 for non-submission of the program
MTRCB affirmed the ruling
Respondents filed a special civil action for certiorari with RTC QC. RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondents, annulling and setting aside the decision and resolution of the MTRCB and declaring and decreeing that certain sections of PD 1986 & MTRCB do not cover the TV program “Inside Story”, they being a public affairs programs which can be equated to a newspaper
Hence, this petition
Issue:
Whether the MTRCB has the power or authority to review the “Inside Story” prior its exhibition or broadcast by TV.
Held:
Sec 3 of PD 1986 enumerates the powers, functions and duties of the board:
Xxx
b) to screen, review and examine all motion pictures herein defined, TV programs, including publicity materials
The court in INC v. CA rules that PD 1986 gives MTRCB the power to screen, review and examine ALL TV PROGRAMS
*LESSON* where the law does not make any exceptions, courts may not exempt something therefrom, unless there is compelling reason apparent in the law to justify it.
Thus, when the law says “all TV programs”, the word all covers all tv programs whether religious, public affairs, news docu, etc
It then follows that since the Inside Story is a TV Program, MTRCB has the power to review it
The only exemptions from the MTRCB’s power to review are those mentioned in Sec 7 of PD 1986
1) TV programs imprinted or exhibited by Phil govt and/or departments and agencies
2) Newsreels
In a desperate attempt to be exempted, respondents content that Inside Story falls under the category of newsreels.
MTRCB rules and reg defines newsreels as “straight news reporting, as distinguished from analyses, commentaries, and opinions. Talk shows on a given issue are not considered newsreels.
Clearly, Inside Story is not a newsreel but more of a public affairs program and within petitioner’s power of review.
Issue related to Consti law:
Petitioner’s power to review television programs under Section 3(b) of P. D. No. 1986 does not amount to “prior restraint.”
Ratio:
It is significant to note that in Iglesia ni Cristo, this Court declared that freedom of religion has been accorded a preferred status by the framers of our fundamental laws, past and present, “designed to protect the broadest possible liberty of conscience, to allow each man to believe as his conscience directs x x x.”  Yet despite the fact that freedom of religion has been accorded a preferred status, still this Court, did not exempt the Iglesia ni Cristo’s religious program from petitioner’s review power.
Respondents claim that the showing of “The Inside Story” is protected by the constitutional provision on freedom of speech and of the press.  However, there has been no declaration at all by the framers of the Constitution that freedom of expression and of the press has a preferred status.
If this Court, in Iglesia ni Cristo, did not exempt religious programs from the jurisdiction and review power of petitioner MTRCB, with more reason, there is no justification to exempt therefrom “The Inside Story” which, according to respondents, is protected by the constitutional provision on freedom of expression and of the press, a freedom bearing no preferred status.
The only exceptions from the MTRCB’s power of review are those expressly mentioned in Section 7 of P. D. No. 1986, such as (1) television programs imprinted or exhibited by the Philippine Government and/or its departments and agencies, and (2) newsreels.

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