“Liberté, égalité …” and the freedom of contract
One can almost say that the right to freedom of contract, emanating as it does from the laissez faire doctrine upon which the Bill of Rights is based, is one of the most sacred if not the most sacred of the liberties that the Charter seeks to uphold – one can even daresay it was the real driving force behind the merchant class rising up in arms against the monarchs to assert “Liberté, égalité …” against the King: It was to be able to expand the markets. For all its rhetoric, the great charter of the then nascent free enterprise system was all about business. But for the fundamental civil liberties that emanated from it, leading up to the 20th century Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Bill of Rights — when asserted successfully — strikes as an effective check against the abuse of power of despots and satraps, even those garbed as commissioners, bureau heads, agency directors, and the Chief Executive.
The NTC of midnight MCs issued in the last days of the previous administration treads on hallowed ground and violates it (“No law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed.” Sec. 10, Bill of Rights) when it prohibits mergers and other commercial contracts of media companies without its “clearance” (draft MC Guidelines) and when it prohibits the selling of airtime/blocktime for more than 50% of the daily airtime (draft MC Guidelines)
All the parties to the contract are affected including the other contracting parties, not just the grantor: For example, CNN Philippines as a local franchise of CNN Asia, all media organizations that rely on selling blocktime to raise revenues, the blocktimers themselves or all production companies on blocktime (e.g., Eat Bulaga, etc.), all religious groups who rely on buying airtime, all public figures who need to host their own show, all lifestyle and promotional outlets – even advertising agencies who purchase blocktime.
By being able to choose what media company can sell blocktime even among those who already hold a franchise — which media organizations can co-produce shows including news programs even among franchise-holders, the NTC grants itself the power to decide which franchise-holder shall earn its favor : It forces, without law, media organizations to make a beeline for and curtsy the NTC Commissioners for a precious permit to “allow” the exercise of a right that has already been won more than five hundred years ago, creating a “permit system” that operates as a form of prior restraint.
Overlording ordinary commercial transactions, and without being a court of law, the NTC arrogates unto itself the power to strike down contracts it does not like : It, a mere agency under the DICT and created by a Malacañang executive order, now more powerful than the King: Now, how about that?