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Failing grade







If I were to rate the Court of Appeals (CA) as a dispenser of justice, I would give it a failing grade.

It seems the appellate court is mostly composed of dimwits who can’t decide for themselves and have to ask others.

This columnist is referring to the CA asking the Office of the Solicitor General to comment on the request of Maria Ressa, chief operating officer (CEO) of online news site Rappler, to be given permission to travel abroad to receive an award from her alma mater, Princeton University.

Why did the CA have to ask Solicitor General Jose Calida whether Ressa’s request should be granted?

Ressa is not a flight risk and will certainly return to the country after receiving the award.

Ressa returned to the country after she received the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway last year, right?

So why would Ressa not return to the country and to her job as Rappler’s big boss after receiving her “best alumni” award from Princeton?

Ressa has everything to lose, and will tarnish her reputation, if she doesn’t come back.

The Rappler CEO was convicted two years ago by a Manila regional trial court for libel, which was filed by businessman Willy Keng. Her conviction is on appeal with the CA.

Libel is considered a hazard of the profession by journalists.

I don’t know about Ressa, but many journalists carry their libel suits like a badge of honor. It means their exposing the warts and imperfections of society is being given attention.

In the case of Ressa, though, the Manila court did right in convicting her and a fellow writer on Keng’s complaint because he was not a murderer and drug lord, as Rappler claimed.

However, the appellate court justices who are handling Ressa’s appeal should have considered that libel is not a heinous crime – like kidnapping, murder, rape, etc. – for her to become a fugitive of justice.

* * *

I would double up with laughter if Solicitor General Jose Calida would disallow Ressa’s trip to the United States to receive her Princeton award.

The Office of the Solicitor General is supposed to be headed by brilliant lawyers, including the likes of Estelito Mendoza, Sedfrey Ordoñez, Silvestre Bello and the late Frank Chavez.

The Solicitor General is the legal defender of the government in cases filed against it in courts.

For example, Mendoza ably defended before the Supreme Court the legality of President Marcos’ martial law regime.

Chavez chided before the Court of Appeals a Bataan judge who had me jailed for two weeks for contempt after I exposed that a detainee charged with murder was allowed to go out of jail. The newspaper I was writing for as a columnist then had gone to the CA.

Chavez was supposed to defend the judge, Jose Bartolome, before the appellate court, but instead denounced him for abuse of authority.

* * *

How was a close relative of an official of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) able to lease an office space at the NAIA 3 terminal?

MIAA runs the Ninoy Aquino International Airport or NAIA terminals 1, 2 and 3.

My sources at the airport say the official’s relative, in turn, sub-leased the space to an airline company.

The awarding of the contract to lease a space at the NAIA was supposed to be through a public bidding; there was none.

And subleasing that space is illegal.

* * *

Ricardo “Dong” Puno Jr.’s demise is a great loss to me as it is to his family.

Dong was everything to me: Compadre (he stood as baptism sponsor to my daughter Monik), barkada (close associate), adviser and mentor.

A veteran broadcaster, Dong taught me that the television camera was a “friend” and should not be feared.

“Consider the camera your friend and not your enemy, Mon,” he told me to ease my “stage fright” before a camera.

He said the TV camera was just a contraption that made me connect to thousands, even millions of people, without fear of their prying eyes, as they are not physically present.

Dong was my co-host, along with Rey Langit, on the talk show, Action 9, which aired over the defunct RPN 9 in 1993.

Action 9, a daily afternoon show that tackled issues of the day and invited newsmakers to appear in front of the TV camera, became an instant hit among viewers because the hosts were of divergent personalities.

Dong was calm, collected and urbane; Rey had a commanding, modulated and booming voice; and me, the first ever broadcaster to cuss on radio and TV.

Many of our mutual friends thought I was a “bad influence” on Dong, since he was not much of a socializer before I met him. He seldom, if ever, went to bars – my favorite hangouts after work – until he started going with me.

The eldest of a well-bred brood of 12, Dong was popular among GROs (euphemism for bar girls) because he was “such a soft-spoken gentleman” even after several shots of scotch.

A debonair man, Dong introduced me to the niceties of life; my time with him made me a sort of food and wine gourmet.

A lawyer who finished his law studies at the Ateneo de Manila University, Dong advised me on how to avoid libel suits as a hard-hitting columnist.

Before he became ill, Dong was a tri-media personality: he was a radio commentator, a TV host and columnist of The Philippine STAR. He served for a short time as press secretary to president Joseph Estrada.

A man as intelligent, articulate, well-bred and sincere a friend as Dong is hard to find these days.

I sorely miss him, and I am sure people whose lives he had touched feel the same way (if not even more so), too. — Ramon T. Tulfo

Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com


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