MANILA – The Philippine Judges Association (PJA) on Monday cried foul over “abusive criticism and unfounded innuendoes” meant to discredit the judiciary, following last week’s conviction of Rappler executive editor and chief executive officer Maria Ressa for cyber libel.

In a statement, PJA president Felix Reyes said they strongly denounce these abusive attacks and criticisms hurled against the courts, judges, and the judiciary.

He added that the judiciary is being dragged and vilified “because a decision was rendered in a manner not acceptable to the parties therein”.

“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,” he said.

Reyes said the public must come to grips with the vital role of the courts in a functioning democracy and that courts settle controversies based on facts and law, stressing that facts are established by evidence and the law is applied to the facts established.

“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,” Reyes added.

Citing Supreme Court precedents, he added 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”.

A Manila court found Ressa and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. guilty of cyber libel.

Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa sentenced the two to imprisonment ranging from six months and one day to six years.

Ressa and Santos were ordered to pay the complainant, businessman Wilfredo Keng, PHP400,000 in moral and exemplary damages. (PNA)