In 2021, when the Supreme Court was wrapping up its oral arguments and pleading rounds of the anti-terror law around March, there was one thing noticeable in the filings of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) – Solicitor General Jose Calida had not been signing some of the documents.
Reporters covering the judiciary, as well as the legal circle, wondered: has Calida gone on a hiatus? He even fielded his assistant solicitors general (ASGs) to face justices for the oral arguments, only facing the bench for his opening statement then leaving his ASGs to be interpellated.
So when Calida released a press statement on February 28 calling out Rappler’s agreement with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), it was a loud signal that he was back.
Calida released the statement on the same day that Benhur Abalos, campaign manager of presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. also issued comments calling out the Rappler-Comelec deal. It was not the first time that Calida and Marcos had acted in sync.
In 2020, Marcos and Calida filed motions on the same day seeking to inhibit Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen from the electoral contest that the dictator’s son filed against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Also on February 28, the OSG wrote Comelec urging the poll body to unilaterally rescind the agreement with Rappler by March 4, else they would file a petition on Monday, March 7.
On Sunday, March 6, suspended lawyer Larry Gadon sent a media advisory to his Viber group with reporters and said the OSG was proceeding with its filing Monday. The OSG did not itself send the advisory.
Gadon is a senatorial candidate in the Marcos slate. His license to practice law has been suspended indefinitely by the Supreme Court after he posted a video of himself verbally harassing journalist Raissa Robles for the latter’s critical comments about Marcos’ taxes.
At the Supreme Court, neither Calida nor OSG lawyers were present, sending only two administration staff to file the petition.
Reporters could not immediately verify if what was being filed was the said petition because media was prohibited from entering the Supreme Court premises due to health protocols. However, a staff of the Apollo Quiboloy-owned SMNI was able to go to the docket section and livestream the filing.
When reporters asked Supreme Court security why SMNI was allowed inside, the security staff said the SMNI personnel concealed his ID and told them he was from Malacañang.
The Supreme Court has been told of this incident. Rappler has reached out to SMNI’s reporter who covered the filing for a statement on what their staff had done.
Quiboloy workers have sued for libel Rappler journalists and their sources, as well as resource persons, over stories of the pastor’s alleged exploitation of women members of his church. Quiboloy is wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for sex trafficking of children.
Quiboloy has endorsed Marcos.
Later in the day, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) held a press conference to once again blast Rappler’s deal with Comelec.
There are so many ties that bind the key players here: Calida campaigned for Marcos in 2016, and helped him in the Supreme Court electoral case by also trying to get Associate Justice Marvic Leonen to inhibit from the case. Both the OSG and Gadon helped Marcos in this aspect by trying to get Leonen’s SALNs or Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.
The OSG is also lawyering for NTF-ELCAC, whose officers are given a platform by SMNI.
Fact-checking coalition Tsek.PH earlier found that in this election season, fake news benefitted Marcos the most.