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“Sub Judice” vs Freedom of Speech

Free speech freedom

The media reports, “A lawyer from the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) has asked the Muntinlupa court to cite for indirect contempt former senator Leila de Lima, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, and Rep. Edcel Lagman, for embarrassing the wisdom of the court.”

Atty. Ferdinand Topacio said, “the media statements made by De Lima and the others violate the “sub judice” rule that prohibits comments and disclosures about judicial proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court, or obstructing the administration of justice.”

But what “disclosure” did the three make except the disclosure of their sentiments and points of view? And when is “sub judice” a sub judice rule in court?

Well it is a rule applicable only in cases wherein the public interest is not involved. In the case of Leila De Lima who was a senator (when she was charged and jailed), a former Justice Secretary and former Human Rights Commission Chairman (a public figure), a defender of truth and justice – the case is most certainly, obviously one that is of public interest.

Public issues are open for public discourse and subject to public scrutiny.

Can we imagine if every “John Doe” or Pepe and Pilar who publicly questions the wisdom of government actions by way of pronouncement, protest rally, media release, etc., will be charged in court (or red-tagged) for indirect contempt or be subjected to “sub judice” rule just because a court case has been filed regarding a given matter that is at issue? Would it not clearly beset all courts the world over with thousands, even millions of “contempt” cases for judges to handle, enough for judicial systems to collapse? Wacky!

Oh, such an effective “legal” tool to suppress free speech!

Citing the “sub judice” statute to curtail freedom of expression, much less for the aggrieved parties and the media as a watchdog for any country, is tantamount to dictatorship or despotism, a tyranny of the highest kind, if not altogether “national insanity” at its worst. Isang malaking katopakan!

Press freedom

Is Atty. Topacio hoping the Muntinlupa Trial Court would run to his side just because it is the court which has the jurisdiction over the De Lima case, and whose actions were both praised and criticized publicly? Praised in the case of the two judges who acquitted De Lima in two separate cases and criticized in the case of the one who denied bail for De Lima vis-a-vis her remaining case.

Well, I don t think so. I still believe and want to believe in the integrity and wisdom of every court of law in the land, the Muntinlupa Trial Court in this instance – to adjudicate (correctly, prudently and conscientiously) in rendering justice to the politically persecuted, feisty critic of wolves, vultures and sharks in the halls of power.

But just in case the Muntinlupa Trial Court, imperfect and un-infallible as it is as any courts of law anywhere in the universe, fails to appreciate the depth and merits of the De Lima case, then Heaven won’t take it numb and just sit idly by, silent. There are higher courts, much less the Supreme Court that the people can go to – for final, undiluted, undistorted justice. And of course, there is the Almighty, Supreme God who is the Ultimate Judge to adjudicate most accurately (with divine force) via conscience and His mighty, unseen sword.

By the way, the Philippine judicial system is currently showing signs of transformation or improvement, given the actuations or ethos of the present Supreme Court, and the recent lower court decisions, some of which are laudable, I mean those that involve the public interest, especially.

Freedom of speech

March on, dear magistrates of the country. Ignore stumbling blocks to progress. Cleanse your ranks. Castigate shrewd lawyers. Our country deserves decent lawyering from educated and trained men and women of the law, but only those with both brains and hearts, and souls. Time to rise up from the ashes of the “old life.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

“Justice is the foremost virtue of the civilizing races. It subdues the barbarous nations, while injustice arouses the weakest.” – Jose Rizal

Therefore, beloved countrymen, who is “prejudging the issue, influencing the court, or obstructing the administration of justice” in the De Lima case? Who is “embarrassing the wisdom of the court”? And who is simply being naive and entertaining?

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King

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