Today, yet another quo warranto petition has been filed by the Solicitor General, now targeting the revocation of the franchise given to ABS-CBN Corporation, one of the biggest private multimedia corporations in the Philippines which was closed down by the dictator Marcos Sr. during his own Martial Law.

Even ABS-CBN reporter and lawyer Mike Navallo was not spared by the Solicitor General who is known to be a Marcos admirer himself. During the filing of the petition, Solicitor General Jose 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 its legalese costume, it frontally circumvents Article III, Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution, which proscribes abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or 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. 

His feudal treatment of a fellow lawyer based on his self-professed superiority does not speak well neither of the office he represents nor of the profession. 

This is reminiscent of Ferdinand Marcos’s martial law years, which began with the suppression of private media. During those years, the media had been put under government control and the information flow has been restricted. Independent journalists and media workers had been similarly threatened and silenced with false charges. 

Calida’s showcase of power exposes this government’s utter disrespect of the people’s right to a free and independent press, and its unqualified intolerance to 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 the way they deserve. In time, every one will be given his due.#

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers was founded September 15, 2007 as a nationwide association of human rights lawyers as well as law students, paralegals and legal workers in the Philippines united by a commitment to the defense, protection, and promotion of human rights especially of the poor and the oppressed. | 02 9206660