Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo has warned in no uncertain terms that the Supreme Court will not tolerate any threats directed against members of the judiciary.
“You can count on us…The Supreme Court will always be your safe haven,” he recently told members of the Metropolitan and City Trial Judges Association of the Philippines.
His warning followed threats by Lorraine Badoy, former spokesperson of the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) against Manila Regional Trial Court Presiding Judge Marlo A. Magdoza-Malagar.
Magdoza-Malagar had dismissed the government’s petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing the New People’s Army, and its political arm the National Democratic Front, as terrorist organizations.
In her ruling, Magdoza-Malagar said the CPP-NPA-NDF cannot be considered terrorists since they use armed struggle to achieve a political end—to seize control of government—which is rebellion.
Terrorism, on the other hand, is defined as putting the whole population in a state of constant fear through the use of deadly force, such as mass killings and bombings, intimidation and other means.
Hence, strictly speaking, rebellion and terrorism are two entirely different things altogether and should not be used interchangeably or confused with one another.
The Manila judge made the fine distinction between the two and reaped the whirlwind in doing so.
But the High Tribunal immediately came to her defense, coming up with a clear statement: “The Court sternly warns those who continue to incite violence through social media and other means which endanger the lives of judges and their families, and that this shall likewise be considered contempt of this court and will be dealt with accordingly.”
The warning was contained in Administrative Matter 22-09-16-SC, which also mentioned that it would tackle motu proprio (on its own) possible actions regarding Badoy’s threats against Judge Magdoza-Malagar.
Gesmundo pointed out that while it is the constitutional duty of the High Tribunal to supervise lower courts, it is also its moral duty to protect each of the judges and ensure that they are able to perform their duties free from any threat, harassment, undue influence, coercion, and certainly, any form of violence: “The Supreme Court, under my watch, is very serious about protecting our frontliners.”
The Supreme Court further explained: “The reason behind the power to punish for contempt is that respect (for) the courts guarantees the stability of their institution; without such guarantee, the institution of the courts would be resting on a shaky foundation.”
The Chief Justice’s strong stand led this week to a ruling by the court for Badoy to explain why she should not be cited for contempt for her social media remarks against Judge Magdoza-Malagar.
What the High Tribunal has done, in effect, is to remind everyone that ours is a government of laws and not of men and that where law ends, tyranny begins.