Legal cases in the Philippines should be fought inside the country and not globally using expensive celebrity lawyers.
Amal Clooney, whose reputation is partly the result of her being the wife of Hollywood blockbuster actor George Clooney, is making it appear that all charges brought against Maria Ressa for her being the CEO and founder of online news outfit Rappler were instigated by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Without a legal standing in domestic proceedings, Clooney and her cohort Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, who together Ressa calls as her “international legal team,” accused the government of being on top of a campaign against Ressa and Rappler’s “independent reporting.”
The pair cited Ressa’s 10th arrest warrant and the third libel prosecution as part of a campaign to silence her and shut down Rappler, “just as they shut down the leading broadcaster in the country.” Obviously being referred to is the closure of the franchise-less ABS-CBN.
A rundown of the cases ranged against Ressa, however, showed that these are far from what Ressa’s expensive counsels are trying to portray.
The latest court order for the arrest of Ressa and Rappler reporter Rambo Talabong involves a cyber libel charge based on a story about alleged corruption at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (CSB).
She was already convicted over a story involving businessman Wilfredo Keng, while a second cyber libel charge involves the same Keng narrative.
Ressa and Rappler also face five tax, anti-dummy and violation of securities code charges.
The spin being propagated by the backers of Ressa is similar to the contention of critics on the war on drugs that either Mr. Duterte initiated these or he had encouraged personalities around him to go after critical media.
The militant National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, for instance, harps on the 28 libel and cyber libel cases filed against journalists under Mr. Duterte, suggesting that he has a hand, in one way or another, in each complaint.
“We hope that defenders of democracy will stand up for the press and that Philippine judges will put an end to this legal charade,” Clooney submitted.
Gallagher, citing the United Nations Human Rights Committee, said cyber libel should not be a crime, a call which the Daily Tribune supports through the amendment of the libel law.
Nonetheless, not only Rappler but the rest of the media industry labor under the weight of the law.
Yet, other news outfits which are in the same boat do not cry political persecution every time a libel case is filed against them.
The objective of the international legal team of Ressa, thus, is not related to the merits of the case she faces but to generate international indignation against Mr. Duterte.
As proof, Ressa’s lawyers had called on the European Union to put pressure on the Philippine government to drop all charges against Ressa.
“The European Union is a champion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law worldwide, and it has a close and long-standing relationship with the Philippines. Now is the time for the European Union to make clear to the government of the Philippines that this reprehensible conduct must end, and all charges against Ms. Ressa must be dropped,” Gallagher said.
Ressa is trying to whip up a political storm using her supposed persecution as springboard through the use of ace lawyers that double as her publicists whose services are obtained through top-notch fees.