High court gags SolGen, IBP over kalikasan writ

The Supreme Court has issued a gag order to stop the involved parties from commenting on the writ of kalikasan petition seeking to compel the government to protect disputed shoals in the West Philippine Sea from Chinese poachers.

In an en banc session on Tuesday, the Court ordered the counsels of petitioners, including losing senatorial bet and De La Salle University law dean Chel Diokno and Andres Palacios from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and Solicitor General Jose Calida to refrain from publicly commenting on issues involving the pending case.

The order comes on the heels of public statements made by both camps after fishermen from Palawan and Zambales disowned the petition filed by the IBP, saying it was done without their knowledge and consent.

Calida, during oral arguments on July 9, submitted to the Court the affidavits of 22 fishermen, stating that 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 a school and demolition of their house.

The justices unanimously decided to suspend the oral arguments and ordered the parties to “move in the premises” or inform the court of their next actions on the case.

Calida announced to the media that the counsels of petitioners agreed to the dismissal of the case during a closed-door conference with the justices.

On Monday, the solicitor general also suggested in a TV interview that the counsels of petitioners could face disbarment for filing the petition without the consent of the fishermen.

But Diokno 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, stood firm on the petition as it sought 10 days or until July 22 to again confer with the fishermen before complying with the Court’s order to “move in the premises.”

On Tuesday, the Court granted the IBP’s plea for extension but gave them only until Friday, July 19, to comply with the order.

The Court will then set to decide whether to continue hearing the case in oral arguments on July 23 or proceed with its resolution.

Calida earlier sought the dismissal of the petition, arguing that there is no need to compel the government as sought in the petition because it has been performing its duties to protect the environment in the WPS.

READ: SolGen wants fishers’ lawyers disbarred over ‘kalikasan’ plea

READ: China seeks closure to boat-ramming incident

Topics: Supreme Court , writ of kalikasan , West Philippine Sea , Chel Diokno , Andres Palacios
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