Judges dismiss public outcry over Maria Ressa conviction
MANILA, Philippines – An association of judges has slammed the personal attacks hurled against the judiciary over the Manila Regional Trial Court’s decision to convict Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa, insisting that cases are resolved based on facts alone.
According to the Philippine Judges Association (PJA), it is saddening that people have thrown insults toward the country’s judiciary and its system just because the decision was not acceptable and did not favor the parties concerned.
“The public must come to grips with the vital role of the courts in a functioning democracy. Courts settle controversies on the basis of facts and law,” PJA said in a statement signed by its president, Judge Felix Reyes, on Monday.
“The facts are established by evidence and the law is applied to the facts established. When a party loses the case, there are remedies available under the law. This kind of system makes people rely upon our courts with substantial certainty, it encourages the resolution of disputes in courtrooms rather than on the streets,” the group added.
Last June 15, Ressa and a former Rappler reporter were found guilty over a story about former chief justice Renato Corona’s use of vehicles that are not his. In the story, one of the vehicles were alleged to be owned by businessman Wilfredo Keng, which Rappler said had a “shady past.”
Rappler said that Keng was under surveillance for his involvement in the drug trade and in human trafficking allegations, but the businessman claimed that he has never been the subject of any investigation.
After the guilty verdict was handed down by Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa, people were quick to denounce the judiciary, with several opposition figures worrying about the decision having a chilling effect on press freedom and free speech.
However, PJA discouraged people from making generalized statements as it might erode public trust on the said branch of government.
“Abusive criticisms are unfounded and unfounded innuendoes hurled against courts and judges erode the public’s trust and confidence on the very institution tasked to protect the people’s rights,” PJA explained.
“The PJA strongly denounces these abusive attacks and criticisms hurled against the courts, judges and the judiciary!” the judges group added.
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