The Philippine Judges Association (PJA) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) condemned the social media attacks against a Manila regional trial court (RTC) judge who issued a decision which declared that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), are not terrorist organizations.
In its statement, the PJA said that the judiciary is the last bulwark of democracy and that “a judge is such bulwark personified set out to administer justice as best as he/she sees fit and proper in light of the evidence, law and jurisprudence before him/her.”
“Any unfounded assault on a judge in whatever form or manner is an assault on democracy,” the PJA said although it did not mention the name of Manila RTC Judge Marlo A. Magdoza-Malagar who issued the decision that dismissed the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) petition for proscription against CPP and NPA.
The PJA, in which Judge Malagar is a member, also said:
“The PJA upholds the rule of law and not the rule of men. We remind everyone that individuals, including judges, have protected constitutional rights, and personal attacks and threats against them and the judiciary should never be tolerated.
“To this end, we call upon government offices and private organizations to see to it that the actions of their members are legal, moral and form part of the acts of a civilized society.”
For its part, the IBP – the official organization of lawyers in the country – called for the immediate activation of the Judicial Marshall Service for the protection of judiciary members and personnel.
The Judiciary Marshals Act under Republic Act No. 11691 provides for the creation of an office which will be “primarily responsible for the security, safety, and protection of the members, officials, personnel, and property of the Judiciary, including the integrity of the courts and its proceedings.”
In its statement, the IBP said: “The Integrated Bar of the Philippines condemns the abuse, harassment and outright red-tagging of another member of the Judiciary. These capricious and dishonest statements go beyond reasonable discussion. They foment vitriol and hate against our judges.”
It lamented that “the Honorable Judge herself became the subject of online attacks and even threats in social media for her dismissal of the said petition, with one reportedly threatening her with bodily harm, while the rest accusing her of being an ally or friend of the CPP-NPA.”
The IBP did not mention the names or accounts of the social media posts it was referring to.
It said: “False reports about a public official or other person are not shielded from sanction by the cardinal right to free speech enshrined in the Constitution. Even the most liberal view of free speech has never countenanced the publication of falsehoods, specially the persistent and unmitigated dissemination of patent lies.”
It pointed out that it is not against the expression of opposition over a court ruling.
“Stating rational reservations on decisions of the judiciary is normal. Attacking its members and threatening them with bodily harm is not. The judiciary’s job is to decide disputes. And no judge should ever feel threatened just performing that duty,” the IBP stressed.
It reminded the public of the SC ruling which declared “a judicial officer in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.”
“To threaten members of the Judiciary is to ‘sow fear’ at a ‘critical element’ of the legal system. Broadcasts and posts showcasing those who verbally assault judges encourages the public to do the same. If judges can be treated disdainfully without consequence, the Rule of Law becomes a hollow promise,” it said.
Earlier, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla said the DOJ will no longer appeal the RTC’s ruling on CPP and NPA.
Remulla said a new petition will be filed with the Court of Appeals (CA) which has jurisdiction under Republic Act No. 11479, the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020.
Remulla said the Manila RTC resolved the DOJ’s 2018 petition under the provisions of RA 9372, the Act to Secure the State and Protect Our People from Terrorism or the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA 2007), which had been repealed by the 2020 ATA.
“Kaya (because of this) appealing the case with the RTC will not serve us anything good. Under the new law (RA 11479), the jurisdiction for proscription of terrorist organizations will lie in the Court of Appeals,” he said. (With report from Rey G. Panaligan)