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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Judges Association (PJA) on Monday, June 22, cried foul over bashing of the judiciary following the high-profile conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr.
“The PJA strongly denounces these abusive attacks and criticisms hurled against the courts, judges and the judiciary,” said a statement on Monday, signed by PJA president Judge Felix Reyes.
Reyes said the statement was prompted by criticisms after Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Rainelda Estacio Montesa convicted and sentenced Ressa and Santos to a maximum of 6 years in jail for cyber libel.
“Yes it is,” Reyes told reporters when asked if the statement was connected to the Rappler conviction.
“The PJA is saddened by how the judiciary is being dragged and vilified just because a decision was rendered in a manner not acceptable to the parties therein,” said the statement.
“The attacks on the judiciary are so vicious that they may lead to the public losing faith and respect in our judicial system,” said the PJA.
The same PJA under Reyes called for the resignation of former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno when the latter was undergoing an impeachment proceeding. Sereno was later ousted by the Supreme Court via an unprecedented quo warranto, a mode slammed as unconstitutional even by the dissenters on the Bench.
LOOK: The Philippine Judges Association "speaks out" against "virulent attacks…just because a decision was rendered in a manner not acceptable to the public therein." @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/eKgfXtNPwP
LOOK: The Philippine Judges Association "speaks out" against "virulent attacks…just because a decision was rendered in a manner not acceptable to the public therein." @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/eKgfXtNPwP— Lian Buan (@lianbuan) June 22, 2020
The most prominent legal groups in the country have said that Judge Montesa’s interpretation of cyber libel’s prescription period – extending it to 12 years – was wrong. They believe that cyber libel, just like ordinary libel, prescribes in only 1 year. This means that a libel complaint can be filed only within a year since the publication of supposed libelous content.
Extending the prescription period made it possible to prosecute and charge the Rappler journalists for a 2012 article. The complaint was filed only in 2017.
The PJA said “the public must come to grips with the vital role of the courts.”
“Abusive criticisms and unfounded innuendos hurled against courts and judges erode the public’s trust and confidence on the very institution tasked to protect the peoples’ rights,” said the PJA.
The Sereno ouster, as well as drug war killings, have led the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers to say that it’s not the judiciary itself, but judicial independence, that is under attack. – Rappler.com