By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA — A few weeks before the start of the trial, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) asked the Quezon City trial judge handling the website blocking case to inhibit, saying that she has shown “bias and partiality” in favor of Bulatlat.
According to the NTC, presiding Judge Dolly Rose Bolante-Prado had supposedly shown bias in favor of Bulatlat through her words and actuations, citing her supposed verbal agreements with Bulatlat’s lawyers during the case proceedings as “practically advocating” for the newsroom that is the target of their website blocking order.
“With sincere regret, NTC is left with no choice but to respectfully request for the immediate inhibition of the Honorable Presiding Judge,” said the plea.
“The past actions of the Honorable Presiding Judge have convinced NTC that she would not be able to continue the case with ‘cold neutrality and impartiality’ that a judge is required to maintain,” it added.
Alipato Media Center Inc., publisher of Bulatlat, through its counsels from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), however, opposed this, saying that the NTC’s claims are ‘neither just nor valid’, and that voluntary inhibition of judges on such grounds are frowned upon by judicial policy, and run afoul of the integrity of the proceedings.
Among the reason, NTC stated in their plea of inhibition was the denial of their filed Motion for Reconsideration last August 16, 2022. Bulatlat, however, countered that NTC could have exhausted several legal remedies to challenge the court’s decision but chose not to pursue any of them.
In a statement, Bulatlat reminded the NTC that it was also the same judge who denied their petition for a temporary restraining order, as well as its motion to cite the said government agency for indirect contempt.
Danilo Arao, Bulatlat associate editor and journalism professor, said that NTC’s motion is an excellent case study on how not to make a pleading.
“The NTC’s motion is its own rebuttal,” Arao said.
The alternative news group also said that the NTC’s statement that the judge was allegedly agreeing with Bulatlat’s lawyers – aside from being untrue – is hardly a ground for inhibition since Judge Bolante-Prado was only performing her regular duties.
“That a judge simply agreed with one party’s position cannot in any way be construed as a manifestation of bias or partiality on his/her part,” said Bulatlat’s opposition.
Bulatlat editor-in-chief Ronalyn Olea called NTC’s motion as “laughable and ridiculous.”
“It is an insult to the intelligence and independence of the presiding judge,” said Olea.
“Just because the court granted our petition for injunction doesn’t mean that Judge Bolante-Prado was ‘openly advocating for the plaintiff,” she added.
The first trial of this case is set on April 4. (RTS, JJE)