Trial By Publicity: Can A Media Broadcasting Company Adjudicate Actual Controversies In Front Of National Television?
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  • Trial By Publicity: Can A Media Broadcasting Company Adjudicate Actual Controversies In Front Of National Television?

The law is explicit as to whom the power of adjudication belongs. There should be no trial by publicity. What is allowed is a public trial. Under the Philippine Constitution, the Judicial Power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.((Sec. 1, Art. VIII, 1987 Philippine Constitution))

The same article further provides that this Judicial Power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights that are legally demandable and enforceable.

On the other end, with the continual evolution of mainstream media, broadcasting companies seem to venture into programs that are not commonly seen by the public.

Trial by publicity

Years ago, a Philippine tabloid talk show((Face to Face, a Philippine tabloid talk show aired on TV5)) advertised itself as a televised Barangay Hall premiered and quickly became a household subject. A Philippine tabloid talk show that became a household topic.

The same was criticized for portraying itself as a body, capable of resolving minor disputes between two arguing parties. It was well received by the general public, but for some, the show failed to realize its goal of settling the parties’ issues.

At present, the popularity of public affair program((Raffy Tulfo in Action, a a public affairs program acting as an extension and TV version of Wanted sa Radyo aired on TV5)) which investigates and exposes cases of abuse, dishonesty, exploitation, and disputes on television is seeing a continuous rise among the masses. Public acceptance is so massive that the program has already dominated the most commonly used social media platforms in the country.

Can a media broadcasting company adjudicate actual controversies in front of national television?

For those who turn to the show in search of redress, it effectively delivers relief to the aggrieved parties; being viewed as a faster and more accessible alternative to what the judiciary requires. On the contrary, criticisms are also being leveled at the same; emphasizing that it does not have the right to administer “justice.”

Widely held to be disturbing the established justice system while providing nothing but false relief to the involved parties. Clothed as just and fair in order to gain the support and sympathy of the public; blatantly bypassing legal processes.

These tales gave rise to the question “Can a media broadcasting company adjudicate actual controversies in front of national television?”

Ethical Principles of Broadcasting

Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) a non-government, non-profit organization broadcast media in the Philippines, crafted the Broadcast Code of the Philippines 2007. The Code provides practical guidelines and ethical standards to which broadcast practitioners in the Philippines adhere.

Part 1 of the Broadcast Code provides Program Standards, composed of 33 Articles, which act as guidelines on how broadcast programs shall be conducted. Concomitantly, the Code also provides KBP Broadcasting Principles, which talks about the good attributes the broadcasters should possess.

The KBP Broadcasting Principles are as follows:

  • Truth – Broadcasters shall tell the truth. He shall not slant or twist the story by adding, omitting, or changing information, statements, and details of the news.
  • Open-Mindedness – Broadcasters shall have an open mind to all opposing views and arguments.
  • Accountability – Broadcasters shall have accountability for every news he/she report and words he/she spoke
  • Balance – Broadcasters shall present both sides of the news and/or stories.
  • Responsible – Broadcasters shall be responsible for every news he/she reports. Issues are well studied before he/she presents it to the public.
  • Authority of the Constitution – Broadcasters shall serve as one of the vanguards of the Constitution. He/she shall promote and advocate free speech, press freedom, as well as proponents of democracy.
  • DIGNITY And DECORUM – Broadcasters shall exercise humility and be humble at all times, whether inside or outside of the station.
  • Righteousness – Broadcasters shall promote the truth and expose what is wrong.
  • Careful and Prudent – Broadcasters shall be delicate in handling confidential information.
  • Obedient – Broadcasters shall adhere to the rules and regulations of KBP, and other laws governing the country.
  • Trustworthiness – Broadcasters shall not put personal gains ahead of his/her duty to the public. He/ She shall maintain honesty at all times.
  • Effectiveness – Broadcasters shall be effective in influencing and promoting common good, as well as contributing to the development of our citizens and our nation.
  • Respect – Broadcasters shall respect not only his/her fellow broadcasters but also the truth and the rights of the people to know the truth.

The Broadcast Code of the Philippines 2007 serves as guidance on how to make a good and ethical broadcasting program that is sensitive to certain topics, yet brave enough to shed light on the truth and willing to expose all the lies, ignorance, and misconceptions. It also acts as a regulation on how a responsible broadcaster should behave.

One may argue that these program standards and broadcasting principles will just act as a straitjacket against the broadcaster’s freedom to broadcast and/or to deliver the news. Nonetheless, ii is not the focus of the contention here.

These program standards and broadcasting principles are laid down so that we can have a decent and politically correct broadcasting program and responsible and ethical broadcasters. Freedom of the press, just like other constitutional rights, is not absolute. It is subject to restriction and limitations by the government, by the law, or even by the agencies themselves.

Limitations of Broadcasting

Similar to all other things subject to law, broadcasting, too, has its limitations. In the Philippines, there are several laws that define what broadcasting should do and what it should not. Primarily, there are three (3) limitations of broadcasting that every media broadcasting company in the country must abide by and observe. They are: (1) Limitations to Ownership and Management, (2) Limitations to Construct and Operate, and (3) Limitations to Content, Responsibility to the Public, and Self-Regulation.

Limitation to ownership and management dictates that media broadcasting companies are limited only to Filipino citizens. This is pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1018, which provides that:

The ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations or associations wholly owned and managed by such citizens.((Sec. 2 of P.D. 1018 Limiting The Ownership And Management Of Mass Media To Citizens Of The Philippines And For Other Purposes))

Secondly, under Republic Act No. 3846 or An Act Providing for the Regulation of Radio Stations and Radio Communications in the Philippine Islands, and for Other Purposes, media broadcasting company has its limitation to construct and operate. It is articulated in the said law, which provides that:

No person, firm, company, association, or corporation shall construct, install, establish, or operate a radio station within the Philippine Islands without having first obtained a franchise therefor from the Philippine Legislature.((Sec. 1 of R.A. 3846. An Act Providing For The Regulation Of Radio Stations And Radio Communications In The Philippine Islands, And For Other Purposes))


The construction or installation of any station shall not be begun, unless a permit therefor has been granted by the Secretary of Commerce and Communications.((Ibid.))

Lastly, the limitation to content, responsibility to the public, and self-regulation is stipulated in every broadcasting company’s grant of Legislative Franchise, which provides that:

Every broadcasting company shall provide adequate public service time to enable the government, through the said broadcasting stations or facilities, to reach the population on important public issues; provide at all times sound and balanced programming; assist in the functions of public information and education; conform to the ethics of honest enterprise; and not use its stations and facilities for the broadcasting of obscene and indecent language, speech, act or scene; or for the dissemination of deliberately false information or willful misrepresentation, to the detriment of the public interest, or to cite, encourage or assist in subversive or treasonable act.((Sec. 4 of R.A. 9478. An Act Granting The Free Air Broadcasting Network Corp. A Franchise To Construct, Install, Establish, Operate And Maintain Radio And Television Broadcasting Stations Nationwide))


The grantee shall not require any previous censorship of any speech, play, act or scene, or other matter to be broadcast from its stations, but if any such speech, play, act or scene, or other matter should constitute a violation of the law or infringement of a private right, the grantee shall be free from any liability, civil or criminal, for such speech, play, act or scene, or other matter: Provided, That the grantee, during any broadcast, shall cut off the airing of speech, play, act or scene, or other matter being broadcast if the tendency thereof is to propose and/or incite treason, rebellion or sedition; or the language used therein or the theme thereof is indecent or immoral: Provided, further, That willful failure to do so shall constitute a valid cause for the cancellation of this franchise.((Sec. 7 of R.A. 11477. An Act Renewing For Another Twenty-Five (25) Years The Franchise Granted To Golden Broadcast Professional, Inc.))

Aside from the aforementioned three (3) limitations of broadcasting, the 2007 Broadcasting Code of the Philippines specifically provides for the program standards of a media broadcasting company. In the contents of the Code, there can be found specific rules and regulations that the government has laid down for Personal Attacks, Crimes and Crisis, Individual Rights, Political Propaganda, Public Complaints and Grievances, and etc.

It is imperative to note that limitations to broadcasting, although they restrict media broadcasting companies, create a significant demarcation line on its role, scope, and boundaries to deliver sound and balanced public information, as well as, to ensure the respect of every citizen’s rights. Thus, the faithful implementation of such limitations lies in the hands of whoever has the most effective and commanding authority, the government.

Governmental Regulations over Broadcast Media

In the Philippines, broadcast media is mainly regulated by the government through Grant of Legislative Franchise and National Telecommunication Communication (NTC). The government regulates broadcast media in the Philippines to ensure that broadcast content is in line with national laws and regulations and to protect the rights and interests of various stakeholders, including viewers, broadcasters, and the wider community.

The regulation of broadcast media can include measures such as licensing, content standards, and penalties for non-compliance. This helps to maintain the stability and integrity of the media landscape and to promote responsible and ethical broadcasting practices.

Additionally, government regulation of broadcast media can help to prevent the spread of false information, hate speech, and other harmful content, and to ensure that the media serves as an accurate and trustworthy source of news and information for the public.

Mainly, the government regulates broadcasting media through a legislative franchise. Franchise is a grant of right, whereas, legislative franchise is the government’s grant of right to broadcasting companies solely given by Congress for regulation. A legislative franchise shall be obtained first by any person, firm, company, association or corporation before starting to construct, install, establish, or operate a radio station, a broadcasting media.((Sec. 1 of R.A. 3846. Ibid))

Another way is through the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the focal regulating agency of broadcast media, it serves quasi-judicial functions over the latter. The key role of NTC is to the operations of radio and television stations to ensure that they do not engage in any illegal or unethical practices. This includes ensuring that the content broadcast by the station complies with the laws and regulations regarding broadcast content, such as obscenity, incitement, and false information.

In terms of broadcast media, the NTC regulates the allocation and use of radio frequency spectrum, issuance of broadcast licenses and permits, and implementation of standards for technical and operational performance.

The NTC also enforces compliance with regulations and policies, such as content standards and broadcast standards, to ensure that the media operates in a manner that is consistent with the public interest, welfare, and safety. NTC’s role in regulating broadcasting media is crucial to ensure a fair and competitive broadcasting environment and to protect the rights and interests of the public and other stakeholders.

Moreover, NTC ensures that the terms and conditions set forth in the franchise law are followed, and that the radio or television station operates in compliance with the technical standards and regulations set by the NTC.

In sum, the Philippine government regulates broadcasting media through legislative franchise, which is granted and overseen by the National Telecommunications Commission. This helps ensure that the broadcast media operates in accordance with the law and serves the interests of the public.

However, it should be noted that the government isn’t the only entity that regulates broadcast media. Other non-government organizations such as the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) have been working hand in hand with the NTC to set broadcast media standards to improve its regulation.

On how governmental regulations restrict broadcasters in maximizing their spectrum

It is worthy to note, however, that although the government can impose its regulatory powers upon broadcasting companies so as to ensure that broadcast frequencies are rationalized and that these companies abide by the legal and ethical standards in broadcasting, such power is not limitless.

This regulatory power is limited only to the granting of franchises, among others, and it should not be used to censor and restrain the content or the subject matter which are intended to be expressed and disseminated. Of course, it is with the presumption that such expression or speech is not libelous, lewd, obscene, or detrimental to the public.

Likewise, the state, in imposing its power to regulate the operations of broadcasting companies must, at all times, observe the protected rights under the Constitution. No less than the 1987 Constitution, particularly Section 4, Article 3, explicitly provides that:

“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”((Sec. 4, Art. III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution))

This provision involving freedom of expression is a fundamental principle and an indispensable recipe of every democratic country, like the Philippines. It is a powerful instrument to ensure that the government upholds the principles of democracy and accountability and that the public is well-informed of the current state of affairs and has another avenue through which they can inform the government of their grievances and needs. In fact, it was decided in the case of Gonzales vs. Commission on Elections,((G.R. No. L-27833, April 18, 1969)) to wit:

At the very least, free speech and free press may be identified with the liberty to discuss publicly and truthfully any matter of public interest without censorship and punishment. There is to be no previous restraint on the communication of views or subsequent liability whether in libel suits, prosecution for sedition, or action for damages, or contempt proceedings unless there be a clear and present danger of substantive evil that Congress has a right to prevent.((Ibid.))

In the case of Chavez vs. Gonzales,((G.R. No. 168338, February 15, 2008)) distinctions were made as to the types of regulations that the government may impose, viz:

A distinction has to be made whether the restraint is (1) a content-neutral regulation, i.e., merely concerned with the incidents of the speech, or one that merely controls the time, place or manner, and under well defined standards; or (2) a content-based restraint or censorship, i.e. the restriction is based on the subject matter of the utterance or speech. The cast of the restriction determines the test by which the challenged act is assayed with.((Ibid.))


When the speech restraints take the form of a content-neutral regulation, only a substantial governmental interest is required for its validity. Because regulations of this type are not designed to suppress any particular message, they are not subject to the strictest form of judicial scrutiny but an intermediate approach — somewhere between the mere rationality that is required of any other law and the compelling interest standard applied to content-based restrictions…”((Ibid.))

This type of regulation actually does not restrict how broadcasters use their spectrum considering that only the time, place, or manner of their speech is regulated. One example of this regulation is the requirement of a franchise before a broadcasting company can actually operate. This is so because such a requirement establishes a well-defined standard as it also applies to all other companies who would like to operate in the Philippines.

The Supreme Court further held in this case that “a governmental regulation is sufficiently justified if it is within the constitutional power of the Government, if it furthers an important or substantial governmental interest; if the governmental interest is unrelated to the suppression of free expression; and if the incident restriction on alleged [freedom of speech & expression] is no greater than is essential to the furtherance of that interest”.((Ibid.))

The other type of regulation, on the other hand, the content-based restriction, actually restricts how broadcasters use their spectrum. Such regulation imposes limitations on the actual content of the expression and the subject matter of the speech itself and comes to court with a heavy presumption of invalidity, as held in Chavez vs. Gonzales,((Ibid.)) to wit:

…With respect to content-based restrictions, the government must also show the type of harm the speech sought to be restrained would bring about — especially the gravity and the imminence of the threatened harm — otherwise the prior restraint will be invalid. Prior restraint on speech based on its content cannot be justified by hypothetical fears, “but only by showing a substantive and imminent evil that has taken the life of a reality already on ground.” As formulated, “the question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.((Ibid.))


A governmental action that restricts freedom of speech or of the press based on content is given the strictest scrutiny in light of its inherent and invasive impact. Only when the challenged act has overcome the clear and present danger rule will it pass constitutional muster, with the government having the burden of overcoming the presumed unconstitutionality. Unless the government can overthrow this presumption, the content-based restraint will be struck down.((Ibid.))

Having mentioned all these, the government insofar as it protects its interests shall regulate broadcast media so as to ensure that legal and ethical standards are faithfully observed without interfering and curtailing the people’s freedom of speech and expression; and without violating the four aspects of freedom of the press:

1. freedom from prior restraint;

2. freedom from punishment subsequent to publication;

3. freedom of access to information; and

4. freedom of circulation.

However, this is not just a unilateral undertaking as it is also incumbent upon the broadcasting companies to ensure that the programs that it airs are also fully compliant with pertinent laws, most especially with the Constitution, the highest law of the land that guarantees the protection of individual rights such as the right to due process, among others.

RTIA: A Court of Trial?

“I-papa Tulfo kita!” or “Kay Sir Raffy po kayo lumapit,” these are some of the statements that you would read in social media or hear from the mouths of the laymen. This begs the question: what makes the program of Raffy Tulfo—RFTIA—appealing to the masses rather than opting towards the courts of the Philippines?

As provided by the 1987 Constitution: The Judicial Power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.((Sec. 1, Art. VIII, 1987 Philippine Constitution)) RFTIA— for some RTC or “Raffy Tulfo Court”—is not the Court that is specified by our Constitution itself. The goal of the media is to inform and the goal of the courts is to settle disputes, however, his program overlaps with the functions of the court.((Raffy Tulfo in Action viz-a-viz Supreme Court/Judiciary))

RTIA may have been advertised as an alternative forum to settling disputes, providing quick justice, and claiming to solve cases in 1-2 days. The way that the program is presented may reflect that it is as if it is the panacea for all the injustices in the Philippines.

The RTIA Program’s trial by publicity is what hooked the masses. Perhaps the program may be a manifestation of the need to make justice system work better for the masses. The “quick justice” RTIA offers is what clings the people to his program.

As the Constitution provides: all persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.((Sec. 16, Art. III, 1987 Philippine Constitution)) This provision of the Constitution is seen in action in his program by the masses and the reason why some of our fellow Filipinos would go towards him than to our courts.

One thing is for certain: he acts as if he is the judge, jury, and executioner. Once you are in his program, expect that it will be one-sided or ridiculed by him. While it is true that he offers such claims—and the results are seen swiftly—our courts will always be a proper avenue to settle disputes.

The process is long because it aims to guarantee hearing both sides and ensure that justice is served. Safeguards are placed in order to ensure an impartial decision. Even if you deem that there’s a mistake in the ruling, you as a plaintiff or respondent can raise the issue to the higher courts. Whereas in the case of RTIA, once deemed by his program as guilty, not only him but also the public see you as one, what’s more is that there’s no appeal to his swift judgment.

RTIA: Paradox to Due Process?

No person shall be deprived of his life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. “Due process of law” has been defined many, many times, and simply means that before a man can be deprived of his life, liberty, or property, he must be given an opportunity to defend himself.((Cornejo vs. Gabriel G.R. No. 16887. November 17, 1920))

While RTIA is not a court as established by law but rather a media program that acts that has the power to settle disputes, it is shown in the program that both parties are given an opportunity to be heard and defend themselves.

It has the element of due process but still, it’s not the proper venue to conduct settling disputes since there are instances that the show is sometimes one-sided and Raffy himself is susceptible to making errors in judgment without appeal.

What is the point? Is RTIA even violating due process? There is no case yet, but one thing is certain: the public now demands a speedy trial. People want to be heard and acknowledged. RTIA is now viewed as the face of the Philippine Justice System, and this must stop.


A media broadcasting company, as an official body, cannot adjudicate actual controversies in front of national television. It is not tasked or mandated by law to do such, which adjudication can have the semblance of an enforceable judgment. Yet, it may aid settlement on the parties own volition, without prejudice to proper observance of due process and confidentiality.

Media broadcasting companies are bound to adhere ethical principles of broadcasting. The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) crafted the Broadcast Code of the Philippines 2007 which provides practical guidelines, and ethical standards in which broadcast practitioners in the Philippines shall adhere. The Code laid down the standards and principles in broadcasting absent the authority to adjudicate actual controversies.

The role of the media is to show what is happening. Adjudication belongs to a competent court as explicitly provided under the Philippine Constitution that judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.

The government regulates broadcasting media through a legislative franchise granted by Congress, or another way is through the National Telecommunications Commission. The government regulates broadcast media to ensure that broadcast content is in line with national laws and regulations and to protect the rights and interests of various stakeholders, including viewers, broadcasters, and the wider community but none of these regulations allow the broadcast media to adjudicate actual controversies or disputes in front of national television.

With the growing popularity of media broadcasting, people find comfort where they think they can find justice and quick solutions to their legal problems. People are drowned by media and broadcasting companies taking advantage of this popularity. While it is true that freedom of speech is guaranteed in our democracy, adjudication of legal controversies shall be settled in Court. This article has emphasized that Judicial Power is vested in the Supreme Court and in lower courts.

We may enjoy the out-of-court settlement, but the members of the judicial system owed it to the public to ensure that they receive the best justice possible, as a matter of right. Hence, our Constitution guarantees free access to the courts and quasi-judicial bodies and adequate legal assistance shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty.((Sec.11, Art. III, 1987 Philippine Constitution))















RALB Law | RABR & Associates Law Firm

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