“ABUSIVE CRITICISM and unfounded innuendoes hurled against courts and judges erode the public’s trust and confidence in the very institution tasked to protect the people’s rights.”
The Philippine Judges Association on Monday strongly denounced the brickbats thrown the way of the judiciary in the wake of the guilty verdict on Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. of cyber libel by Manila RTC Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa.
“The decision today (June 15) marks not the rule of law, but the rule of law twisted to suit the interests of those in power who connive to satisfy their mutually beneficial personal and political agenda,” Rappler said.
Adding: “Today marks diminished freedom and more threats to democratic rights supposedly guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution, especially in the context of a looming anti-terrorism law.”
The PJA lamented “by how the judiciary is being dragged and vilified just because a decision was rendered in a manner not acceptable to the parties therein.”
“The attacks on the judiciary are so vicious that (these) may lead to the public losing faith and respect in our judicial system,” it said. This, even as it stressed that “courts settle controversies on the basis of facts and law.”
Furthering: “The facts are established by evidence and the law is applied to the facts established. When a party loses the case, there are remedies available under the law.”
Under the rules of courts, Ressa and Santos can still file before the RTC a motion for reconsideration. If that is denied, they can elevate the case to the Court of Appeals and eventually all the way to the Supreme Court.
Speaking of the High Court, the PJA cited SC precedents saying that “personal attacks, criticisms laden with political threats, those that misrepresent and distort the nature and context of judicial decisions, those that are misleading or without factual or legal basis, and those that blame the judges for the ills of society, damage the integrity of the judiciary and threaten the doctrine of judicial independence”.
And warned that: “These attacks do a grave disservice to the principle of an independent judiciary and mislead the public as to the role of judges in a constitutional democracy, shaking the very foundation of our democratic government.”
The PJA statement was issued by its president Judge Felix P. Reyes.