SC to parties in West PH Sea case: Don’t litigate case on social media
MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court issued a “gag order” to counsels and parties in the writ of kalikasan case for the protection of marine resources in the West Philippine Sea.
High Court’s Public Information Chief and Spokesperson Atty. Brian Keith Hosaka said the court reminded the counsels and the parties including Solicitor General Jose Calida and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to observe the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Rules of Court.
“Furthermore, the SC En Banc reminded the counsels of their obligations under the Code of Professional Responsibility and Rules of Court not to litigate their cases through media or social media. Infractions shall be dealt with severely,” Hosaka told reporters Tuesday.
Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility specifically Rule 13.02 provides that “a lawyer shall not make public statements in the media regarding a pending case tending to arouse public opinion for or against a party.”
The gag order was issued after both parties made public statements about the case which stemmed from the fishermen from Palawan and Zambales disowning the petition.
During oral arguments last July 9, Calida submitted to the Supreme Court the affidavits of 22 fishermen saying they were unaware of the IBP’s filing of the kalikasan petition on their behalf. Some of them even claimed they were made to sign a blank document by the IBP lawyer they sought for help regarding the closure of school and demolition of their house.
The High Court has decided to suspend the oral argument and ordered the parties to “move in the premises” or inform the court of its next actions on the case.
The IBP sough for an extension of up to July 22 but the high court gave them only up to July 19.
Calida, in a television interview, suggested that the counsels of petitioners could face disbarment cases for filing the petition without the consent of the fishermen.
Atty. Chel Diokno, for his part, accused the government of having a hand in the withdrawal of the petition by the fishermen and violating legal ethics by talking to their clients.
Diokno also insisted that the fishermen filed the petition “with full knowledge and consent because they want to freely fish in our own sea and have enough income to raise their families.”
The IBP, through its new national president Domingo Cayosa, also stood firm in the petition.
The Court is then set to decide whether to continue hearing the case in oral arguments on July 23 or proceed with its resolution. /je
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