A human rights activist charged with indirect contempt by a private lawyer has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206.
Calling the indirect contempt charges “frivolous,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that she seeks the court’s immediate dismissal of the said charges against her, former Sen. Leila de Lima and her legal counsels, Rep. Edcel Lagman, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, and Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes for lack of merit. The seven named respondents in the case expressed their individual views on the denial of bail to de Lima.
The indirect contempt charge against Palabay stems from a press statement quoting Palabay, saying “it is unacceptable and enraging that (Sen. Leila) de Lima has been detained (since 2017) for such baseless and politically motivated charges for six years, and her recent attempt to be released by questioning the weakness of the evidence in these charges through her bail petition is frustrated.”
The case was filed by Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, a known supporter of former Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and current Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The drug charges against de Lima were believed to be instigated by former President Duterte, after she vowed to investigate the anti-drug war-related killings dating to the time Duterte was mayor of Davao City.
In her motion, Palabay averred that Attorney Topacio has no legal standing to file indirect contempt charges, since he “does not have substantial interest in the case and is merely a spectator to the outcome of the cases against former Senator De Lima.”
Palabay also asserted that there is nothing contemptuous in her statement and it was merely “a valid exercise of her constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech and expression.”
“Moreover,” added Palabay, “There is no clear and present danger to the administration of justice that would constitute the alleged act as contemptuous,” as it did not pose any peril to the court’s maintenance of its independence and integrity.
“On these bases,” said Palabay, “the constitutionally protected freedom of speech should be upheld.”
Karapatan said that as frivolous as these charges may be, Palabay and her fellow Karapatan officers are facing this case as well as the renewed forms of judicial harassment against them to push back against any form of threats against human rights defenders like them.
“We call on the courts to attend to the more pressing resolution of the cases of at least 778 political prisoners like former Sen. De Lima and our colleague Alexander Philip Abinguna, who has been detained for more than four years on trumped-up charges, instead of harassment suits by government and its minions against activists and ordinary citizens,” Karapatan said.
*Copy of the motion is available upon request.