ABS-CBN raised the equal protection and due process clauses of the constitution in a petition before the Supreme Court seeking to stop an order by regulators to shut down the country’s largest media network.

The TV network announced the filing of a petition for certiorari, or a review of the decision of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), on its flagship newscast TV Patrol, which went back on air Thursday but through internet and overseas platforms.

It also asked the court to void the NTC’s cease-and-desist order dated May 5, a day after ABS-CBN’s franchise expired, arguing that due process was not observed.

“The public needs the services of ABS-CBN now more than ever, as the country grapples with the effects of COVID-19. In this time of public health emergency, ABS-CBN plays a significant role in providing continued employment to thousands of employees and delivering valuable information and entertainment to millions of Filipinos locked down in their homes,” the 46-page petition stated, as quoted by ABS-CBN News on its website.

It recalled that NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba promised to grant ABS-CBN a temporary license during a public hearing in March.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon had raised the equal protection argument.

He pointed out that PT&T, SMART Communications, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, TV5, Subic Broadcasting and others were allowed to operate after the expiration of their franchises and while their application for renewal were pending in Congress.

Drilon said the 1987 Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of property without due process of law nor shall any person be deprived of equal protection of laws. The equal protection of the law clause requires that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike both as to rights and responsibilities imposed, he said.

Drilon explained that similar subjects should not be treated differently as to give undue favor to some and unjustly discriminate against others.

He also cited Section 23 of the Public Telecommunications Policy Act, which contains an Equality Clause that states: “any advantage, favor privilege or immunity granted to existing franchises shall ipso facto become part of previously granted telecommunications franchises and shall be accorded immediately and unconditionally to the grantees of such franchises.”

“By ordering ABS-CBN to stop operations after the lapse of its franchise while allowing other similarly situated to continue to operate, then, clearly, the NTC is placing ABS-CBN in a class of its own, thereby violating the equal protection clause mandated by the Constitution,” Drilon said.

ABS-CBN reporter Mike Navallo told TV Patrol anchor Noli de Castro there was a chance for the petition to be taken up by the Supreme Court, which was set to hold a special session on Friday, May 8 for a retiring magistrate.

TV Patrol went back on air Thursday after a day of absence, drawing more than 8 million viewers on Facebook. (PressONE.ph)