“Not only is it an underhanded threat against Judge Quisumbing-Ignacio, it also seeks to undermine the independence of all judges and the courts handling similar cases.”
By EMILY VITAL
MANILA – Lawyers and colleagues of journalist Lady Ann Salem condemned the red-tagging of Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio who junked the charges against Salem and labor organizer Rodrigo Esparago.
Several tarpaulins bearing the logos of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front of the Philippines cropped up in Mandaluyong and other parts of the metro thanking the judge for the dismissal of the cases against Salem and Esparago.
Salem’s lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) viewed it as “an attack on the court’s independence.”
“Insinuating that the judge and our clients are linked to the CPP and NPA is consistent with the government’s own posturing in these cases. It has always been the National Task Force to End Local Communist Insurgency (NTF-ELCAC) that raised these connections, using false and perjured witnesses and filing of false charges. The awkward feature of photos, prominent use of communist logos, and wily messaging has been a hallmark of recent propaganda, all calculated to increase alarm and concern,” PILC said in a statement.
“Not only is it an underhanded threat against Judge Quisumbing-Ignacio, it also seeks to undermine the independence of all judges and the courts handling similar cases,” the law firm added.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is alarmed over the incident.
“Such incriminating claims in the tarpaulin that links Judge Quisumbing-Ignacio to the Communist Party of the Philippines without any specific and verifiable evidence exposes her to grave danger,” CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.
The CHR maintained that Article 18 of the United Nation Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that members of the legal profession “shall not be identified with their clients or their client’s causes as a result of discharging their functions.”
“Continuous harm, vilification, intimidation, and red tagging of lawyers and judges, if left unaddressed, may result in sending a chilling message to those who remain faithful in the performance of their legal duties,” de Guia said.
For Altermidya, the national network of alternative media outfits, “the effort is apparently aimed at harassing the judge for issuing a favorable resolution to the case of journalist Lady Ann and unionist Rodrigo Esparago.”
“The attempt to connect Judge Ignacio to communist organizations clearly intends to discredit the court’s basis for dismissing the charges against Lady Ann. The Mandaluyong court junked the case because of evidence: the search warrant issued by controversial Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert was downright defective, and testimonies by supposed witnesses were contradictory,” Altermidya said in a statement.
PILC reiterated that the dismissal of the charges against the two “has been one of the few reassurances that state-sanctioned wrongs and political persecution can be addressed and corrected.”
Altermidya expressed concern for the safety of Salem who is once again red-tagged. “We denounce this newest attempt to vilify our colleague, and we request our fellow journalists and press freedom advocates to continue supporting Lady Ann and other truth-tellers under attack,” the network said.