Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Imagine 19 salas being utilized to hear one and the same case. What a waste of time and taxpayers' money."

(First posted back in Feb. 26, 2006)

It's not the first time Malacanang tried to intimidate and harass the tribune.

In 2003, Malacanang tried to silence the Tribune's Ninez Cacho-Olivares by having her arrested for exposing the PIATCO extortion attempt by Malacanang officials. And like GLORIAGATE, PIATCOGATE also involved a tape. Somebody leaked to Ninez the tape of a tapped conversation between FRAPORT reps and their lawyers.

In that tape, it was made clear that Villaraza had demanded a $20-million fee to be paid offshore to an entity in Hong Kong, in exchange for his services, to include fixing up the problems facing Fraport on its investments in the country.

The interesting thing is that Arroyo's lawyers did not say the tape was fake or manufactured. They did say though that the tape was inadmissible as evidence.

-- Tribune link:

Tribune chief arrested, to be arraigned 19 times

Tuesday, 08 05, 2003

The Daily Tribune's publisher and editor-in-chief, Ninez Cacho-Olivares was yesterday arrested by the Manila Police on two counts of criminal libel. Seventeen more arrest orders for Olivares have been issued by the Makati Regional Trial Courts for the same complaint filed by President Arroyo's personal lawyer F. Arthur “Pancho” Villaraza.

Bail was set by the Makati courts at P10,000 per count, with a total of P190,000 for 19 counts.

Olivares is scheduled for arraignment in 19 different salas in the Makati Trial Courts next month.

Malacañang lauded the Makati courts and the police on the arrest of the Tribune publisher saying the case will now be properly tried in court.

The 19 counts libel suit stemmed from the Tribune exposé on the $70-million extortion try by Palace aides and Mrs. Arroyo's personal lawyer and “fixer,” Villaraza, who was reported to have demanded $20 million for “background services” for Frankfurt AG (Fraport) to solve its problems with the Arroyo administration and the judiciary, including the high court, on condition that Fraport ensures the ouster of majority shareholder of Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco) Vic Cheng Yong in relation to the airport Terminal III project.

The report was based on a taped conversation held between the Fraport representatives and their lawyers, where the corrupt practices of the Palace aides were disclosed.

The Palace refused to have the charges probed and even ensured that the Senate probe, which had already come up with a resolution to investigate the report, would be stonewalled, this, despite the announcements from the President and the Palace that they were firm on ridding her administration of corruption and even appealed to the public to come forward and expose the corruption.

Olivares saw her arrest as pure harassment and said this was politically motivated, since it was Mrs. Arroyo's personal lawyer who had ensured that not only would she have 17 warrants of arrest issued against her, but would be arraigned 19 times in 19 different salas of the Makati Court for the same complaint.

Olivares was arrested at dawn yesterday by operatives of the Western Police District (WPD) in her residence in Parañaque City, despite the fact that the orders were for the warrant to be served in Ermita, Manila, where the Tribune offices are located. The case has been lodged in the Makati Courts.

The Department of Justice, where the complaint was being investigated, after Olivares and her lawyers asked for the inhibition of the Makati Fiscal's Office, owing to the fact that the chief prosecutor was a Villaraza appointee, denied Olivares due process when the DoJ did not bother to grant Olivares the usual 15 days within which to file a motion for reconsideration.

The DoJ decision was received by Olivares last Friday, and the Makati Trial Court issued the arrest orders on the same day.

As the arrest warrants were not quickly served, WPD policemen told Olivares that one of Villaraza's lawyer, a lawyer Navarro, appeared Sunday evening at the WPD warrants section office and asked its chief of expedite the Tribune publisher's arrest. She was arrested at 6 a.m. and brought to the WPD for fingerprinting and mug shots.

Shortly before noon, Olivares posted P20,000 bail for her temporary liberty, only to discover that there were 17 more arrest warrants to be served against her.

Several lawyers, led by Rufus Rodriquez, Alan Paguia, Rene Saguisag, volunteered their services, and worked out the temporary liberty of Olivares.

An additional P170,000 bail was posted, with Olivares leaving the Makati courts at 6:30 p.m.

“This arrest comes from a legitimate case there was a charge filed against the officers of this (Tribune) newspaper and after the charges were filed the warrants were issued by the appropriate judge and the warrant was served,” Bunye said.

In a press briefing, the presidential spokesman claimed the arrest of Olivares was not meant to muzzle the Tribune. He insisted that the administration had not violated Olivares' rights when she was arrested in her home.

The publisher appeared before the WPD authorities and was escorted by P/Insp. Felicisimo Reyes and SPO4 Gil Corpus both from the WPD warrant section.

The warrant of arrest was forwarded to the WPD-warrant section under S/Insp.Virgilio Dacara around 7 a.m. The other day (Sunday).

“There's something irregular in our not being given the chance to seek a motion for reconsideration,” she said, adding, and to be arrested in Parañaque by the Manila police in an ungodly hour.”

“It's definitely harassment. There is no more rule of law, no more due process. There is no respect for anything anymore under this administration. The judicial system has been so prostituted, it no longer works for anybody that is critical of this godamm government,” Olivares pointed out.

She said her lawyers had wanted the case moved to the DoJ since Villaraza “controls the courts in Makati City,” only to find out that Villaraza also controls the DoJ.

Lawyer Elsie Ramos, legal counsel of Olivares, described the arrest of her client as “a move designed to gag her from further criticizing the Arroyo government” even as she called “dubious” the haste by which the warrant was served by police.

She added that it was obvious, “from the beginning they wanted this case filed as soon as possible, they even exerted effort to do a mental job of delivering the documents to her house and force her to file the counter affidavit hastily,” Ramos said.

Ramos said the issuance of the arrest warrants late on Friday is not only “strange” but also in violation of the Supreme Court circular which prohibits such move.

Meanwhile, Olivares' arrest yesterday was deemed to be politically motivated even as it forebodes the imposition of martial law.

This was aired yesterday by Representatives Renato Magtubo of the partylist Partido ng Manggagawa and JV Bautista of Sanlakas who explained that “the timing of her arrest is very dubious.”

“We have every reason to doubt that her arrest is not politically-motivated specially since the Arroyo administration has not lifted the declaration of a state of rebellion,” the lawmakers said.

They said the arrest of Olivares all the more fuels speculations that the declaration of a state of rebellion is a prelude to martial law.

In a related development, senators said Malacañang is obviously instilling a chilling effect in the media by clamping down one by one critics and perceived “enemies” of the Arroyo administration.

Opposition senators, in separate interviews, said this is the impression they get from the sudden order of arrest of Tribune's publisher and editor-in-chief.

They joined hands in condemning the serving of the warrant against Olivares, questioning even the timing in which it was served saying they could only surmise the possibility of the incident being part of the plan to muzzle the opposition including media entities critical of the leadership of Mrs. Arroyo.

Sen. Teresa Aquino-Oreta denounced what she described as methodical efforts by certain quarters to use both traditional and non-traditional media as launching pads for alleged hatchet job that unduly link members of the mainstream opposition to the failed mutiny last July 27.

Oreta felt she was one of the two senators being alluded to described by those that linked the information as “conspicuously silent” on the issue with the other suspected to be either Senators Rodolfo Biazon and Panfilo Lacson.

Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Biazon, Oreta, Edgardo Angara including Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Joker Arroyo reacted strongly to the serving of the arrest warrant against Olivares.

Sen. Arroyo, who is known to be a staunch supporter of Malacañang, even sided with Olivares saying it was a harsh move on her.

“That's too much,” he commented when he learned that there were 19 counts of libel slapped against the paper's publisher and only two of which were the subject of the warrants served yesterday morning by operatives of the Western Police District (WPD) in her Parañaque City residence.

“The timing is not every good because it could eventually add up to the deterioration of the situation by the administration projecting itself now mounting a campaign against those critical of the administration,” Biazon said.

Pimentel, Oreta, Angara and Sotto held the same view, raising serious alarm over the development saying the incident is proving that the situation in the country is getting worse as freedom of expression is slowly being curtailed by the government.

“It smacks of political persecution...If an editor of a major publication can be arrested, next steps can be so easy —just file cases against critics in the media,” Angara said.

Sotto could only nod in agreement saying the timing is indeed questionable and it does not speak well of the administration specially in the eyes of the public.

“But my piece of advice is that we should not be sitting down because it can have a chilling effect on the right of the media to criticize government on mattes of national interest.

Most of the mainstream media were silent then. You know who you are. Will they be silent again against this latest jihad by this administration on Press freedom?


-- Arroyo admin cracks down on Tribune, Abante

UPDATE: It's interesting reading all this old stuff. Some things never change when it comes to this admin.

Wayback Machine Aug 8, 2003: Ninez issues a statement

A million thanks

Senate probe is to be conducted over my speedy arrest and detention at the Western Police District on a charge of libel.

This is welcome news, not just for myself, but for all the journalists who may one day find themselves in a similar situation that is manipulated by the unelected but powerful figures in government who now have total control of the justice system, from the prosecutor's offices to the lower courts, all the way to the Supreme Court (SC).

Gloria claims I should not bring up my case before the media but to tell my story in court, saying there is no crackdown on the press.

I have always suspected Gloria of being silly, but it is only recently that I have discovered a high degree of idiocy in her.

My arrest and detention on a charge of libel are hardly the issues that are to be tackled in a courtroom. These are separate and distinct from the libel charges leveled against me by her powerful personal lawyer, F. Arthur “Pancho” Villaraza.

Besides, gross infractions were committed in arresting me last Monday, which merely show just how Pancho Villaraza and his client, Gloria, abused their power to harass me.

There was the clear violation of the memorandum of agreement forged between the National Press Club and the Philippine National Police and the Interior and Local Government department, which calls for coordination with the NPC in cases of an arrest order for a journalist. This was never done.

The arrest warrants, for two counts out of 19 counts, were issued by a Makati judge on a Friday, which is against the rules, and this was done without the Department of Justice (DoJ) granting me my right to ask for a motion for reconsideration, as this was just a preliminary investigation. This is a clear denial of due process for the accused.

The Makati judge rejected a motion from the DoJ to consolidate the cases, which paved the way for the issuance of 19 arrest warrants against me on the same libel complaint, to ensure that even after posting the bail, I would again be arrested, and arrested and arrested, as there were 17 more arrest warrants pending and to ensure that I would be charged excessive bail amounting to P190,000 for the charge of libel.

And the Makati judge rejected a motion to consolidate the 19 counts of libel, which translates to 19 judges hearing the same case of libel, with each sala hearing just one count even when there were just two complaints filed. Imagine 19 salas being utilized to hear one and the same case. What a waste of time and taxpayers' money.

This was also resorted to by Pancho and Gloria to ensure that I would be spending my time in 19 courts of Makati than in the newspaper.

And these same powerful people in and out of government dare to claim that there was nothing irregular about this arrest.

One sees just how prostituted the justice system is today, which includes the DoJ, as it has intentionally denied me the right to submit a motion for reconsideration.

Still, all these will be brought out before a Senate probe that is to be conducted soon where all concerned will have to explain how these violations came about.

And while Malacañang and its stooges, along with a high-ranking Supreme Court justice who was said to have celebrated my arrest with a “blow-out” for the SC justices, saying this arrest will “teach” me not to mess around with the justices of the high court and Malacañang, not to mention Pancho Villaraza, gloat over their success at “humiliating and embarrassing” and harassing me, a lot of them will now have to explain the many violations committed against a member of the press.

They may just discover that they celebrated too soon.

I would like to take this space to thank all those who have expressed support for my plight and to all my colleagues in the media who have denounced my arrest. My special thanks to the Manila Bulletin and the Philippine Daily Inquirer for their support as expressed in their editorials and columns. My thanks too to the senators of the republic who called for a probe into my arrest.

Thank you all for your support. The mails and calls received expressing support for me and my case are heartwarming.

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