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Lawyers vs lawyer: Calida’s attack against reporter-lawyer Navallo earns objections

The country’s top public lawyer earned the objection of his fellow lawyers after publicly castigating another lawyer while filing a petition questioning how media giant ABS-CBN had been implementing its franchises at the Supreme Court last Monday, February 10.

While being asked by ABS-CBN reporter and lawyer Mike Navallo for an interview, Solicitor General Jose Calida confronted him for allegedly “always criticizing” him in the news.

The lawyers’ group National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said Calida wore a stoic expression when he reprimanded the reporter but used an arrogant tone as “he condescendingly challenged the young but unperturbed Navallo to practice law and face him in court.”

Navallo calmly replied to Calida that he was “only doing his job.”

“Calida’s actions – without doubt condoned if not encouraged and goaded by President [Rodrigo] 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,’” the NUPL said.

The solicitor general is the official chief legal counsel to President Duterte—himself a lawyer—and the entire executive branch of government.

The NUPL added that Calida’s “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.

The human rights lawyers group added that “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,” NUPL said.

“History will judge all these disingenuous legal assaults against freedoms and liberties the way they deserve. In time, everyone will be given his due,” the group warned.

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te also came to the defense of the reporter, saying Navallo is a good lawyer.

“[Navallo] is a better lawyer than he is a reporter and he is one of the best reporters I know,” Te wrote on his twitter account.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) earlier condemned Calida’s actions, saying he “clearly overstepped the bounds of his office when he turned personal against Navallo” who was on coverage.

The NUJP said Calida was being boorish, “a classic example of a government factotum who mistakes his position of authority as a license to throw his weight around.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘I do not have to be chief justice to defend our laws and institutions’ –Sereno

Hours after her colleagues denied with finality her motion for reconsideration, ousted Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno vowed to continue the fight against the ‘vicious’ Rodrigo Duterte administration even as a private citizen.

With hundreds of supporters at the University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni Tuesday, June 19, Sereno recounted the attacks against her during the hearings at the House of Representatives after Duterte himself led the call for her ouster as chief magistrate.

Duterte was later joined by Sereno’s colleagues at the High Court who refused to inhibit themselves during deliberations on her case and voted eight against six for her ouster via a quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

“In the words of my colleagues, the Supreme Court has committed seppuku without honor,” she said.

Hours earlier, the Supreme Court voted via another eight to six majority to deny with finality Sereno’s motion for reconsideration on the decision ousting her as chief magistrate.

The Court upheld its earlier decision to grant the quo warranto petition against Sereno on the basis of her so-called failure to file at least nine statements of assets and liabilities as a professor of the UP College of Law.

Opponents of the decision, however, argued that a chief justice may only be ousted via the Constitutionally-mandated impeachment proceedings.

A mirror and a warning

Sereno said that her story is not unique, but instead a mirror of what is happening to the country as a whole.

“It is also a warning and a call to action for each of us and all of us together as a nation,” Sereno said, adding that her story echoes the experiences of Filipinos who have had the odds stacked against them because of poverty, injustice or the misfortune of being called enemies by those in power.

Sereno also noted that the attack on her and her office was preceded by attacks against other departments such as the Energy Regulatory Commission, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Higher Education.

She also criticized the blatant disregard of the administration for the Constitution and the rule of law, citing the concern of the international community for the alarming lawlessness in the country.

“The responsibility for the week ending of the rule of law is his,” Sereno added, pointing at Duterte himself.

Demanding answers

“I stand before you now stripped of my authority and position by an unjust decision. But I do not have to be Chief Justice to defend our laws and institutions,” Sereno said.

Sereno said that it is time to demand answers to the nagging questions that every Filipino has been thinking of.

She inquired about the economic future of the country with the poverty becoming pervasive due to price inflation and how much financial difficulties the people have to bear when more tax reform measures are passed by Congress.

The ousted chief justice also challenged Duterte on his programs including his shift to federalism, his relationship with the government of China, his position on the West Philippine Sea, the killing of more than 27,0000 extrajudicial killing victims, disappearance of thousands more, the situation of the people in Marawi, and the freedom of speech and of the press.

Sereno said that the day of her ouster was a good opportunity to open new chapter in the life of the Filipinos, coming as it did on the birth anniversary of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. #

‘May prosesong sinusunod’

Lawyers hold rally vs Sereno ouster

Lawyers held a rally in front of the Supreme Court Tuesday to protest the May 11 decision of the majority of its magistrates to oust Ma. Lourdes Sereno as chief justice.

Dissenting with the decision, lawyers led by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said Sereno’s ouster through the quo warranto petition is unconstitutional.

In a statement, NUPL said the “erroneous” and “shortcut” petition has far reaching effects as it slays judicial independence.

“Our democracy is in peril. Monopoly of power in the Executive without checks and balance is practically complete,” the NUPL said.

Performance artist Mae Paner dramatizes what lawyers says is the death of judicial independence with the ouster of Ma Lourdes Sereno as chief justice through a quo warranto petition. (Photo by Sarah Jane Mendoza Aguilar/Kodao)

The group earlier said Sereno should have been subjected to an impeachment trial in the Senate as an impeachable official, blaming the Rodrigo Duterte government for the chief magistrate’s ouster.

“Dissent even in traditional forms are shot down. Those who stand in the way of government policy and fancy are waylaid,” NUPL said.

The NUPL said it is its duty to protect the rule of law and has thus decided to organize the nationally coordinated  protest actions.

“Our reason for being is put to question. We are being forced to relearn or unlearn what we studied or taught in law school. The Decision revolts against norms we hold dear,” it said.

Wearing court attires, the lawyers also wore black ribbons as a sign of protest and pleading. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Sereno speech after ouster

After being ousted via an 8-6 vote by her Supreme Court colleagues, Maria Lourdes Sereno delivers this speech.

SC has fallen, lawyers’ group says after Sereno’s ouster

Human rights lawyers said Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno’s ouster means the Supreme Court (SC) has surrendered its independence to political pressures.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) called the SC decision granting the Quo Warranto petition against Sereno as “deplorable, contemptuous and a contortion of the Constitution.”

Eight SC associate justices voted to grant the Quo Warranto petition Friday morning, saying Sereno became chief magistrate on the basis on an invalid appointment.

Associate Justices Teresita De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr and Alexander Gesmundo voted in the affirmative.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Perlas Bernabe, Marvic Leonen and Benjamin Caguioa voted against.

The NUPL however said the decision was dishonorable and is a red carpet for dictatorial rule by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Earlier, the NUPL said the Quo Warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General set “a very dangerous and ruinous precedent that can even be used against any impeachable officer, including other justices of the Supreme Court who go against the wishes of and in the crosshairs of the administration or interest groups.”

In its reaction to the decision Friday, the lawyers’ group said granting the Quo Warranto petition does not affect the Chief Justice alone.

“It primarily affects the entire nation as the Supreme Court literally sprawled the red carpet for dictatorial rule,” the NUPL in a statement said.

The NUPL called on judges and lawyers nationwide to step-up protests against “the breakdown of the so-called rule of law and the erosion of judicial independence.”

The group said it is planning and calling for nationwide simultaneous forms of protest against the SC decision to oust CJ Sereno on Tuesday, May 15.

Possible actions include wearing of black pins or armbands, court hearing holiday, picket at the SC and other courts, and legal fora and press conferences, the group said.

“Today is yet again not another good day to be a lawyer. But we will fight and hold fast. The people we serve deserve no less,” the NUPL said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists press high court to dismiss petition vs chief justice

Activists and other civil libertarians held a rally last April 17 to press Supreme Court justices to dismiss the quo warranto petition against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

Accusing President Rodrigo Duterte’s government of masterminding efforts to oust Sereno, the protesters said quo warranto proceedings was meant to remove elected officers from office.

They added officials appointed by the Constitution, such as magistrates of the high court, should not be subject to ouster petitions through quo warranto cases.

Sereno slams attacks against judicial independence

Beleaguered Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno slammed “bullying tactics” against her and the judiciary in a speech before civil libertarians last April 9 on the occasion of the Araw ng Kagitingan.

In this video, Sereno asked her audience to join her in the defense of judicial independence.

Activists march for justice at the start of quo warranto hearings vs chief justice

The Coalition for Justice and Movement Against Tyranny, among other groups, led a March for Justice in Baguio City last April 10 at the start of the Supreme Court’s deliberations on the quo warranto petition against its Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.