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San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet

A veritable fanatic of the Internet. His avocation is teaching while his main vocation is practicing the much maligned law profession. Currently teaching Constitutional Law at the FEU Institute of Law and a guest lecturer at the De La Salle University teaching "Freedom and Regulation in Cyberspace" in the Graduate Program of the Department of Communication. He is married to his beautiful Ateneo law school classmate and is blessed with a daughter and a son.

Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Unblock That PCIJ Blog - A Writing Campaign

In an appalling disregard for the constitutional right to freedom of expression, a Quezon City Regional Trial Court judge, in a case filed by the wife of Jonathan Tiongco, the alleged voice-technical expert of Sec. Mike Defensor, issued a resolution ordering PCIJ to remove the PCIJ blog on Jonathan Tiongco, after the judge deemed it in the best interests of Mrs.Jonathan Tiongco, over and above the constitutional right to freedom of expression of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

This is the first time that a blog has been ordered removed by a judge without realizing that a temporary restraining order (TRO) has no practical effect on a blog. The respondent blogger may be ordered to remove the blog from its site but that would still not stop the entire Philippines from accessing the blocked blog through the cached pages of google or yahoo. Proof positive is the link above. Click on it and voila! So, what is the use?

By the way, I am linking the blog on the basis of my constitutional right to a free and unfettered access to public information. I am also commenting on the resolution because I am neither a party or lawyer to the case nor have I submitted to the jurisdiction of the good judge. Therefore, any notion of sub judice as far as I or the entire blogging community is concerned is bunk.

The judge violated a cardinal principle in the issuance of a TRO. The article complained of has already been published, in this case, posted. It was a done deed. That ought to have made the request for the issuance of a TRO moot and academic. You can no longer restrain an act that has already been performed. And even assuming that Mrs. Tiongco can make a compelling case of her privacy, the judge, if he knows how blogs work, could have ordered that particular paragraph alluding to Mr. Tiongco's marital status removed, at most and not the wholesale censorship of the blog. Mrs. Tiongco’s request and the order of the judge is therefore, invalid and assuming it is valid, it is downright impractical.

After all, how does one restrain a blog after it is published? By analogy, once a newspaper article has been published, the aggrieved party or the judge cannot conceivably and feasibly order the retrieval of each and every copy of the newspaper. In any event, Mrs. Tiongco can always ask for damages. More so with the blogs where transmission of information is one-click away. Que barbaridad!

Bloggers, since we are not parties to the case, let us show the futility of restraining a blog. To the best of my knowledge, since there is no forwarding email address to the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, and if you believe that a great injustice has just been committed, let us show our disapproval by writing to the public information office of the Supreme Court with email address at pio@supremecourt.gov.ph, the highest court of the land, that we, Filipino bloggers, invoking our sovereign right to free speech, express in no uncertain terms our indignation on the Temporary Restraining Order issued against the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Write forcefully but do it respectfully!

Bloggers, UNITE! Unblock that PCIJ blog! Write to the Supreme Court to register your protest!


Blogger Edwin Lacierda said...

I just wrote a letter to the public information office of the Supreme Court.

Let us inundate them with our concern. It is the last bastion for the protection of our constitutional rights. They shall not fail us. So, write to them.

12:21 AM  
Blogger Rizalist said...

The Libel suit filed by Tiongco, which brought about the TRO, cannot prosper, because the truth, as you know is the best defense, and I think PCIJ would love nothing better than to have their report subjected to judicial scrutiny and verification. The Court has wandered in to a quicksand potentially embarrassing to the administration. Most of the damaging or libelious material comes form the PNP for chrissakes! How funny, the PCIJ lawyers will make mincemeat of this. on top of your most excellent observations...
PS I don't know of anyone convicted of libel in the Press except for Mon Tulfo!

2:03 PM  
Anonymous dawin said...


I really could not understand how Judge Lee could have trumped freedom of expression in favor of the right to privacy. The judge's understanding of the hierarchy of constitutional rights somehow seemed skewered.

Some constitutional lawyers in the US, especially the conservative ones, even argue that there is no constitutional right to privacy. But what is not debatable is the constitutional right to free speech. It's the Second Amendment right.

Be that as it may, at least our libel laws are not as terrible as that of UK or Singapore.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Rizalist said...

It's only a temporary restraining order. besides we need such a test case to establish the principle that blogging IS journalism when journalists engage in it. Simple as that. But before we question the motives of the court, which we can assume the worst of or the best, I relish the thought of watching PCIJ's lawyers, and the whole Media, make mincemeat of both the TRO and libel suit.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous yuga said...

Hi Edwin,

I sent a rather lengthy email to them, using all 20+ email accounts I have. :D

Oops, was that spam? hehe

12:23 AM  
Blogger mama_aly said...

What are we coming to? I always thought that one's blog was one's private business --- one's very own 'Plaza Miranda' :(

6:39 AM  
Blogger gari said...

well, it's about legally harassing those who speaks on their own freedom parks and comfort zones specially if our own plaza miranda garnered a number of hits and our opinions counted in the mainstream...

whew, good thing that we are not that popular as that of pcij. :-)

on the 'nega note', i think the decision is generally a lapse in judgment for failure to understand generation gaps on understanding what the hell is a weblog.

since we have enercop, wonder when will there be cybercops. hmmmm...

10:29 AM  
Blogger Hawkeye said...

A blog is a way of expressing our opinion and feeling. Unless its libelous, DOJ has no right to order the removal of a blog.

2:20 PM  
Blogger NJbabe said...

I wonder if they know what BLOG means. I am just curious as to what they want to relay here by making such a proposterous judgement. Minsan nakakatakot to see what the judicial process in the Philippines is going to....hindi ko alam kung matatawa or maiiyak ....what a waste.....But one has to assert one's right otherwise...

12:16 AM  

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