Part 3: Magistrates opt out being used for propaganda and lawfare, a stage for red smoke and mirrors!
At the resumption of the oral arguments on the petitions to nullify Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said all the 15 magistrates voted unanimously to dismiss the petition of Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos to take part in the debates against the law.
Even Associate Justice Marvic Leonen who earlier implied that the court may only conduct a judicial review of actions taken by the executive department if it were presented with an “actual case”, and hinted that the alleged illegal arrest and torture of Gurung and Ramos could be that case, later joined the other magistrates to junk their petition.
Gurung and Ramos, who was first “represented” by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said in their petition that soldiers tortured them to force them to admit that they were communist rebels after they were arrested in Zambales in August last year.
Solicitor-General Jose Calida however informed the court that the two Aetas had withdrawn their petition with the help [AP1] of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).
Reading from their joint affidavit, Calida told the court the two men said “it was not our voluntary decision to affix our signatures” to the petition. “We did not want to sign the documents, but we were forced anyway, given P1,000,” quoting the two erstwhile petitioners in Filipino.
But Peralta cut short Calida’s manifestation saying it may no longer be needed because the justices had already turned down the petition.
What a freaking surprise by the highest court of the land!
Obviously taken aback, former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who represented the NUPL petition, quickly stood up saying that they were unaware that their clients had already terminate their services.
Then came a barrage of ad hominems and a flurry of intrigues:
Colmenares said the PAO lawyers should clarify whether Gurung and Ramos had counsels when they retracted their original petition. Isn’t this a condescending remark from a member of the bar? What does he think the Public Attorney’s Office is, a lying-in clinic?
A paralegal working with NUPL on the case of the two Aetas, who are facing charges in the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court, told the Inquirer that representatives of the NCIP and PAO promised early freedom to the two men if they severed their ties with the lawyers’ group.
This is an old trick in legal alchemy – showing that the corrupt has been further corrupted.
Gianni Clemente, who is also a human rights worker for the farmers’ group Umahon Central Luzon, said NUPL did not coerce the two men into filing their intervention in the Supreme Court as alleged by Calida.
Do we believe this redline, or the recantation or disavowal by the client-erstwhile petitioners themselves?
I agree with Solgen Calida’s dismissal of the NUPL protestations as “desperate” improvisations to convince the tribunal to act on a petition the NGO obviously “manufactured”.
The petition by the Aetas has now become a “questioned document” and that automatically means their subsequent disavowal also sent their allegations that they were abducted and tortured by soldiers into the thin air.
The Inquirer concluded their release that NCIP officials could not be reached for comment and that PAO chief Persida Acosta did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Why should they? The withdrawal affidavit of Gurung and Ramos was self-explanatory.
Journalist or propaganda hack?
So where does this put Tetch Torres-Tupas’ newswriting? If she had at least taken the side of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to balance her report, she would have been professional at her job.
What I think about this whole incident could be more a lot more libelous than Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr’s calling Tupas sloppy work that of a “propagandista”:
A whistleblowing citizen leaks a lead to the authorities and a legitimate military operation ensued. A soldier dies in the skirmish but nine suspects were arrested as they attempted to escape the crime scene. They turned out to be Aetas or indigenous peoples.
Over-zealous lawyers desperately searching for a handle to use as an “actual case” rushed to two of the suspects to thumbmark a formal petition to the Supreme Court against the Anti-Terror Law. A yellow newspaper picks up the story labelling it the first case using ATL against real persons.
An actual petition is filed in the Supreme Court. The same newspaper writes a follow-up, sensationalizing on the “torture” angle for juicier circulation. It deliberately omits the side of the law enforcement to fish for reactions, which it got from the personal Facebook page of NTF-ELCAC spox Parlade, sending the red trolls to frenzy.
The same newspaper, this time reinforced by another yellow broadsheet from Manila’s Port Area, initiates an ambush interview of two wannabe senators, one accusing Parlade of lack of discipline and the other asking that the officer be shown the door.
Parlade now becomes the news.
This a classic smoke and mirrors hack job!
A whole conundrum that happened based only on the wild imagination of an amateur reporter over an incident of torture that never happened.
Expectedly, her peers rushed to her rescue because it is not just this writer who is sloppy but the whole industry. They said “but she just quoted a petition formally filed in court!”
A trash is a trash is a trash – a lie cannot be overturned by ten thousand swearing to the truth of it. Those quotation marks cannot save you from being sued, especially if the information is not verified or at least balanced from its opposite side. Do journalists consider lawyering an honorable profession?
The late ambassador and former vice president Emmanuel Pelaez asked me once, “what is this beef you have with lawyers?” I answered, lawyers are liars, they lie all the time. Are you guys paid to defend your clients at all costs, even at the sacrifice of truth just to seek an acquittal? Isn’t that why there is such thing as perjury and lawyers disbarred for misconduct?
For instance, I followed up, what is automatically the first motion of every legal defense but to dismiss the case over some frivolous divergent reason?
Now what do you call so-called journalists who quote lies?
Even broadsheets do that, and with impunity!
Parlade, a hero?
This sends former Ambassador to Greece and Cyprus Rigoberto Tiglao, a columnist at the Manila Times and today the country’s dean of opinion and editorial(op-ed) writers, to call Parlade, a hero.
“Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., Southern Luzon Command chief and spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, is a hero. He is risking his life for the nation as the most powerful critic of the communist insurgency and he is starting to open the eyes of Filipinos to this grave threat to our nation’s stability, and even democratic ideals.
“There hasn’t really been anybody — except for President Duterte — who has been so bold as to openly challenge the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and expose it as now the gravest threat to the nation, and reveal to the public its devious tricks and witting or unwitting mouthpieces.
“Can you tell me if anybody, even during martial law (and except for President Ferdinand Marcos, that is) who has been as vocal as Parlade in openly battling the CPP?
“Remember that Parlade is risking his life…challenging the communist insurgency that has taken the life of 50,000 Filipinos. Respect him for that. In my book, he is a patriot and a hero of our time.”
It is unfortunate that a before the Tiglao column, another Manila Times columnist, Ramon Tulfo, took the prevarication of Tech Torres-Tupas from hook to sinker, writing “Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., shoots himself in the foot whenever he opens his big mouth.”
After Tulfo put words into Parlade’s mouth, which I consider unsanitary, another Times columnist, Mauro Gia Samonte, quoted a flurry of social media comments supporting the General, one saying “Ramon Tulfo’s puny brain can’t accurately analyze fact from fake news.”
“Whatever is further said about this issue, one thing is clear – the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the Aeta petition against the Anti-Terror Law is a black-and-white indictment of Torres-Tupas and the National Union of People’s Lawyers as prevaricators, and a vindication of Parlade.”
Chief Justice Peralta has just sent a universal arrow across all lawyers’ bow that it will not tolerate bullshit, propaganda and lawfare, and topping it all – smoke and mirrors by the reds.