Government’s ‘outrageous lawfare’
Today, yet another quo warranto petition has been filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, now targeting the revocation of the franchise given to ABS-CBN Corp., one of the biggest private multimedia corporations in the Philippines which was closed down by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. under martial law.
Even ABS-CBN reporter and lawyer Mike Navallo was not spared by Calida, who is known to be a Marcos admirer himself. During the filing of the petition, Calida began publicly intimidating and reprimanding the lawyer-journalist for allegedly “always criticizing” him in the news. In a stoic but arrogant tone, he condescendingly challenged the young but unperturbed Navallo to practice law and face him in court.
Calida’s actions — without doubt condoned if not encouraged and goaded by President Duterte’s persistent threats against the media outfit — reveal an attempt at censorship and prior restraint, masked as a perfectly legal action to “put an end… to highly abusive practices.”
Stripped of legalese, it frontally circumvents Article III, Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution, which proscribes abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press. It also adversely affects the people’s right to information on matters of public concern enshrined in Section 7 of the Bill of Rights, not to mention parallel provisions in international law.
Calida’s feudal treatment of a fellow lawyer based on his self-professed superiority does not speak well of the office he represents or of the profession.
This is reminiscent of Marcos’ martial law years, which began with the suppression of private media. During those years, the media were put under government control and information flow was severely restricted. Independent journalists and media workers were similarly threatened and silenced with false charges.
Calida’s show of power exposes this administration’s utter disrespect of the people’s right to a free and independent press, and its unqualified intolerance toward dissent, disapproval of any diversion from the official line, and aversion to critical yet constructive views, opinions, and ideas.
It fits right into the mold of presidential tantrums in tandem with legislative collusion. We pray that the judiciary does not become a party to this outrageous lawfare.
History will judge all these disingenuous legal assaults against freedoms and liberties harshly, the way they deserve to be judged.
EPHRAIM B. CORTEZ
JOSALEE S. DEINLA,
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.