Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Supreme Court Praised for Prejudging Hundreds of Active Libel Cases


The newspaper which has been slapped with literally THOUSANDS of criminal libel law suits in its relatively short 20 year career as the Philippine Daily Innuendo, and has hundreds of active cases today calls the Libel Laws "a tool for repression!" The editorial gives fulsome praise to Mr. Chief Justice Reynato Puno's latest circular (PDF) virtually PREJUDGING those cases in favor of the Accused. By limiting any possible punishment to fines for the Media Mavens and Moguls that are on the dock in hundreds of still active and unresolved cases, the Supreme Court really has USURPED Congress as it did in 2001 by issuing an unethical mass advisory opinion. It's a culpable violation of the Constitution, and an impeachable offense, in my humble opinion, but the High Court has already peed all over the only Constitutional process by which they themselves can be held to Public Accountability, the impeachment process. Now with the help of Media, they will complete the legal cuckolding of the Congress by unelected Judges in Black Robes.

Although we are obliged to defend PDI's right to Press Freedom, we also have Freedom of Speech so, "Har dee har har!" While the swinging door of observation is momentarily ajar, let us see what mental illness has seized some in the Media and why they are really buttering up the Supreme Court with promises of undying glory and praise in its Front Pages yet to be...

Every Freedom is a compound composed of two basic elements: Rights and a Duties.

The Rights to Life, Liberty and the various pursuits of happiness, are well known. But what are the corresponding Duties? The answer lies in the Principle of Equal Liberty for each citizen. I think that in general the Duty that corresponds to any given democratic Right is the obligation to defend that same Right in others whenever we decide to exercise a given Freedom.

The Right to Life always comes with the Duty to defend an equal "freedom from unjust death" in others as much as for ourselves. The principle of self-defense is a natural derivative.

So too, with "Liberty" and "Pursuit of Happiness". We cannot enjoy these freedoms unless we recognize, as a matter of Social Contract and Common Sense, that an equal right to them exists in others. The preternatural assumption of a Constitutional Democracy, as a Social Contract, is that those who are agreeing to be bound by its provisions, do not know, a priori, what their social class, economic status, political position or personal circumstances are going to be in History. So that in choosing the basic principles that are to govern their association as a society, they are forced to choose principles based solely on the Principle of Equal Liberty for all.

Let us take Press Freedom. Journalism is really an organized, commercialized form of free speech, a freedom of assembly as it were, which includes and relies upon commercial rights to survive buying and selling information--all kinds of information. Thus Press Freedom covers not only the freedom to report the news, it is also the right to sell telecomm load.

The Right to Liberty is an omnibus right to an expandable list of freedoms that human societies specifically recognize as the Bill of Rights. The duty that attaches to each one is specific to that right, but all are governed by: "My Liberty Is Your Liberty!" whenever controversies arise among individuals and institutions.

What the media has now lost sight of is Father Joaquin Bernas' dictum that journalists do not have "more" freedom of speech than ordinary citizens, so that in matters of public security andorder, they should accept lawful authority and not prop themselves up above the law by standing on the shoulders of their Sacred Cow. My critique of the Mass Media in the Manila Pen controversy is based on this Principle of Equal Liberty when it comes to Freedom of Speech.

The latest escalation in the Radical Media's War on the Cops is getting a usual noisy send off over at Ellen Tordesillas blog, where I've been hanging around this week adding to the general atmosphere of Sturm und Drang.


blackshama said...

Ha ha ha! I like the Golden Calf. Reminds me of the comment in Bolt's "Man for All Season" in which Roper chides Thomas More about his stickling for the law.

"You have made the law your God, a Golden Calf"

To which I paraphrase "They have made Press Freedom their God, A Golden Calf"

Unfortunately freedom cannot be based on things of weak foundations. If Dean is right, the Supreme Court has been like a termite undermining that foundation.

Journalists have no more right to freedom of speech than I have. The public has however a right to put them on the ethical spotlight since they get paid for saying the so called truth.

blackshama said...

A rejoinder. Maria Ressa and company should be asked Pilate's question.

"What is truth?"

Now in Pilate's case the Truth involves threats, pieces of silver and someone being crucified!

DJB Rizalist said...

a major escalation in the war on the police has been launched. i don't know what can possibly be gained when so much could also be lost in terms of public confidence in the media.

tommy said...

Now that the floodgates have been opened I await for the bigger, better, spectacular Philippine Media Circus fireworks designed to enrage and entertain the starving masses to begin!

Jego said...

Im not sure I get how this works. If a lower court sentences a fine and prison term for a libel case, and it goes to the SC, will the SC overturn the prison term? An SC justice's opinion should have no bearing on actual cases, correct?

DJB Rizalist said...

That is why I have said it is "prejudging" these cases. By advising lower courts not to levy prison terms, the Supreme Court is declaring that no act of libel, no matter how serious, even after guilt is found beyond a reasonable doubt, merits that punishment. Even if the Law clearly contemplates the possibility that SOME act of libel will be adjudged by reasonable men to be deserving of jail.

The supreme court justices should be impeached for obstruction of Justice by issuing a prejudicial advisory opinion that is contrary to the Law!

balimbing said...

That's the enchanted Kingdom for you, DJB. Every branch of government goes its own way, everyone wanting to be a king of sort!

As far as libel goes, the fg should be glad of his wife's SC move. He can now go sue everyone, including you, if you rub him the wrong way. With no jail penalty, he can pay his way for every mistake he makes with your tax money. Watch out he may be going through his list right at this moment.

DJB Rizalist said...

what is the largest fine ever levied for a case of libel, do you know?

How many libel cases have been won by the prosecution? (less than .001 percent!)

Maybe this means there will be a vast increase in libelous material since who would be scared of fines that some Deep Pockets is going to have to pay anyway, if at all.

balimbing said...


I don't have the numbers, but may be easy enough to google. Nevertheless, I have read of tabloid libel cases settled out of court for undisclosed sums (rumors going up to millions of $.) These involved celebrities, mainly.

I do not know of any libel cases involving public servants or their families vs. media people, save in the PI.

Yeah, you may be right. The haves wields a great power with fines alone.

That is discrimination!

What do you suppose inspired Puno to do this?

DJB Rizalist said...

As defender of the Constitution, the Philippine Supreme Court has been an utter failure.

tiki said...

But you are also referring to questions raised about hundreds of millions of pesos missing from one fund or another, anomalies in contracts, and so forth. Can we argue that the government is doing its best in addressing these issues?

DJB Rizalist said...

we are not choosing between the Media and the Govt. There is no choosing between them. We only have one govt. Yes the govt is doing wrong in many cases. I oppose them on that. But that doesn't mean that the Media cannot do wrong and ought never to be opposed when they are plainly wrong, as they are here!