Case Digest Mtrcb v Abscbn

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MTRCB v. ABS-CBN and Loren Legarda (2005) Ponente: Sandoval-Gutierrez, J. ABS-CBN aired “Prosti-tuition,” an episode of The Inside Story produced and hosted by Loren Legarda. It depicted of female students moonlighting as prostitutes to enable them to pay for their tuition fees and interviewed student prostitutes, pimps, customers and some faculty members. Philippine Women’s University (PWU) was named as the school of some of the students involved and the façade of PWU served as the background of the episode. It caused uproar in the PWU community. Dr. Leticia de Guzman (Chancellor and Trustee of PWU) and PWU Parents and Teachers Association file letter complaints with petitioner MTRCB, alleging that the episode besmirched the name of the PWU and resulted in the harassment of some of its female students. MTRCB Legal Counsel initiated a formal complaint with the MTRCB Investigating Committee alleging that respondents: - did not submit The Inside Story to MTRCB for review - exhibited the same without its permission, violating Sec. 7 of PD 1986 and Sec. 3, Chapter III and Sec. 7, Chapter IV of MTRCB Rules and Regulations Respondents: The Inside Story is a public affairs program, news documentary and socio-political editorial, the airing of which is protected by the constitutional provision on freedom of expression and of the press. MTRCB has no power, authority and jurisdiction to impose any form of prior restraint upon respondents. MTRCB Investigating Committee ordered respondents to pay P20,000 for non-submission of the program and declared that all subsequent programs of the The Inside Story and all other programs of the ABSCBN Ch 2 of the same category shall be submitted to the Board of Review and Approval before showing. On appeal, the Chairman of MTRCB issued a Decision affirming the ruling of the Investigating Committee. Respondents filed a special civil action for certiorari with the RTC and sought to: declare unconstitutional certain provisions of PD 1986 and MTRCB Rules and Regulations - (alternative) exclude the The Inside Story from the coverage of such provisions annul and set aside MTRCB Decision and Resolution … because they constitute prior restraint on respondents’ exercise of freedom of expression and of the press, and those provisions do not apply to the The Inside Story because it falls under the category of “public affairs program, news documentary or socio-political editorials” governed by standards similar to those governing newspapers. RTC decided in favor of ABSCBN: annulled Decision and Resolution of the MTRCB - declared that assailed provisions do not cover The Inside Story and other similar programs for being public affairs programs which can be equated to newspapers Hence, this petition for review on certiorari by MTRCB. Issue: WON the MTRCB has the power/authority to review the “The Inside Story” prior to its exhibition or broadcast by television.  YES MTRCB/SG: (1) all tv programs including public affairs programs, news documentaries or socio-political editorials are subject to MTRCB’s power of review, (2) tv programs are more

accessible to the public than newspapers, thus liberal regulation cannot apply, (3) power to review tv programs does not amount to prior restraint, (4) Sec. 3(b) of PD 1986 does not violate respondents’ constitutional freedom of expression and of the press. SC: Rule in statutory construction: Ubi lex non distinguit nec distinguere debemos (where the law does not make any exception, courts may not except something therefrom, unless there is compelling reason apparent in the law to justify it). When the law says “all television programs,” the word “all” covers all tv programs, whether religious, public affairs, news documentary, etc. Since The Inside Story is a tv program, it is within the jurisdiction of the MTRCB over which it has power of review. There also has been no declaration by the framers of the Constitution that freedom of expression and of the press has a preferred status. If the SC did not exempt religious programs from the jurisdiction and review power of MTRCB, with more reason, there is no justification to exempt therefrom The Inside Story. The only exceptions are tv programs imprinted or exhibited by the Philippine Government and/or its departments and agencies, and newsreels. WON The Inside Story falls under the category of Newsreels. Respondents: Yes. SC: NO. It is not defined in PD 1986 but Webster’s dictionary defines it as short motion picture films portraying or dealing with current events; mostly reenactments of events that had already happened. The MTRCB Rules and Regulations define it as straight news reporting, as distinguished from news analyses, commentaries and opinions. The Inside Story is more of a public affairs program, a variety of news treatment; a cross between pure tv news and news-related commentaries, etc. within MTRCB’s review power. MTRCB did not disapprove or ban the showing of the program nor did it cancel respondents’ permit. The latter was merely penalized for their failure to submit the program to MTRCB for its review and approval. Therefore, there is no need to resolve whether certain provisions of PD 1986 and MTRCB Rules and Regulations contravene the Constitution. No question involving the constitutionality or validity of a law or governmental act may be heard and decided by the court unless there is compliance with the legal requisites for judicial inquiry: proper party actual case or controversy question raised at the earliest possible opportunity the decision on the constitutional or legal question must be necessary to the determination of the case itself Petition of MTRCB Granted. RTC Decision Reversed. MTRCB Decision Affirmed.

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