Solicitor General Jose Calida brazenly left the Supreme Court (SC) filing section just like how superheroes walk away, without looking at the explosion behind. It’s as if he was bred for these monumental and controversial cases that end up dizzying the public, silencing detractors and even trivializing supporters — but is this event the right legal remedy? Yet who would even dare the government’s top lawyer with a winning record in the SC?
This is the same Calida who served the eviction notice against SunVar Realty, associated with Philippine Daily Inquirer, to vacate the Mile Long Compound in Amorsolo Makati; the same lawyer who filed a quo warranto petition in the SC to oust de facto Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno; and the one accused of amassing P150 million worth of government contracts in favor of his security agency.
In his victory walk out of the SC after filing his petition for quo warranto to “oust” media giant ABS-CBN from its own franchise that is set to expire on 30 March, he did not even bother to answer questions nor say anything to the media, except for singling out the sole ABS-CBN reporter for always giving him a hard time, as if to put salt on the wound and inform ABS-CBN that this is precisely the reason for all their issues with the government today.
The new quo warranto petition has set the public on fire, with people decrying media censorship and tyranny. It puts ABS-CBN on the same boat as Rappler, and other huge corporations which the Administration has branded as ‘oligarchs,’ like Ayala Corporation, Metro-Pacific Corporation, among others. Even the foreign press has taken notice with the New York Times and Al Jazeerah publishing articles suggesting that this is among the symptoms of a rising dictatorship in the Philippines.
A caveat: This is not an admiration post on Calida, but rather a recognition of this brand of law practice. Calida comes from the same breed of top lawyers of this Administration, particularly our very own President Rodrigo Duterte and Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo. These are lawyers beyond their 60s, sharp enough to know the salient points of the law, possessing enough swagger to bully their opinion using legalese on any issue, may it be something they know little or a lot about. These are guys who know how to use their age and experience as strong advantages in any situation. In other words, these are some tough mothers that have been through a lot, and they won’t take no for an answer.
This is also the same mold from whence former Vice President Jejomar Binay comes, especially back in his days as Makati Mayor. I recall seeing a video of then Mayor Binay on the day of elections telling Comelec officers in Makati that they do not know their law, without actually citing any specific legal provision, but causing a lot of panic as seen with the eyes of the young officers who did not know if they were being scolded, lectured upon or bluffed.
In the law practice, you see a lot of these veteran lawyers in the courtroom — guys who can widow and wing any trial proceeding. These are the guys you’d hate to go up against especially if he’s friends with the trial judge. Millennial lawyers’ most useful ammunition against them is to read up and cite as many cases and doctrines as they can catch the more senior lawyer off-guard.
The difference here is that Calida brings with him the entire Office of the Solicitor General with lawyers all bearing the same swag he has, with the badge of being the official ‘law firm’ of the Republic of the Philippines.
It is an instant presumption that those that the OSG goes after are on the wrong side of the law, and that the entire machinery of the Philippine government shall be used to ease out every piece of evidence they can muster.
It becomes a deadly mix if you add the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Department of Justice and the local authorities, which we all expect to be activated later on against ABS-CBN.
With this strong suit, the pressure is now on the SC to rule on the Petition, and the House of Representatives to start hearing the franchise at the committee-level. But with how things have unfolded this Administration, the best option for this flavor of the month is to look for new partners similar to what Ayala Corporation did. With a reported 14,000 employees at stake, a new deal has to be brokered quick.
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