NTC’s motion for inhibition of judge in website blocking case neither just nor valid

March 24, 2023
Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

Bulatlat is opposing the motion filed by the National Telecommunications Commission for the immediate inhibition of Judge Dolly Rose Bolante-Prado from the website blocking order case.

In its manifestation submitted to the court March 17, the NTC claimed that the presiding judge “showed bias in favor of the Plaintiff,” citing transcripts during the hearings on motion for reconsideration filed by the NTC and National Security Council and on the writ of preliminary injunction.

The NTC further claimed that Judge Bolante-Prado, in denying the motion filed by former National Security Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr., “echoed the arguments of the plaintiff – hook, line and sinker.”

Alipato Media Center Inc., publisher of Bulatlat, through its counsels from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), filed a comment/opposition March 22. “The grounds raised by Defendant NTC to seek the voluntary recusal of the Hon. Presiding Judge from hearing the instant case, aside from being untrue, are neither just nor valid,” the opposition read.

In its comment, Alipato Media Center Inc. argued that the NTC’s ‘urgent’ plea for the Hon. Presiding Judge’s inhibition should also be rejected because “the voluntary inhibition of judges on grounds that are neither just nor valid is frowned upon by judicial policy, and it is NTC’s plea that runs afoul of the integrity of the proceedings.”

The accusation that the presiding judge echoed Alipato’s arguments in its order dated 10 October 2022 is “not only grossly unfair and misleading, but also bordering on contemptible.”

“The role of a trial court judge in an adversarial proceeding is to adjudicate issues, that is, to weigh the factual and legal assertions of litigants against each other. Inevitably, a judge is bound to reach a conclusion that may be adverse from the point of view of one or several parties. That a judge simply agreed with one party’s position cannot in any way be construed as a manifestation of bias or partiality on his/her part,” the comment read.

Alipato, through NUPL lawyers, further argued that the NTC could but did not avail of legal remedies when the court denied its motion for reconsideration on the granting of preliminary injunction.

“…if Defendant NTC felt particularly aggrieved about this, is for it to raise the matter to a higher court through a petition for certiorari, not to cast aspersions on the integrity of any party, including the Hon. Presiding Judge, in the proceedings,” Alipato said.

Ronalyn V. Olea, Bulatlat editor-in-chief, reacted to the NTC’s motion. “The NTC’s motion is so laughable that the joke is on them. Just because the court granted our petition for preliminary injunction doesn’t mean that Judge Bolante-Prado was “openly advocating for the plaintiff.”

“It is an insult to the intelligence and independence of the presiding Judge, and the entire judicial system for that matter,” Olea said.

It can be recalled that the same judge denied Alipato’s petition for temporary restraining order as well as its motion to cite the NTC for indirect contempt.

Danilo Arao, Bulatlat associate editor and journalism professor, said that the NTC motion is “an excellent case study on how not to make a pleading.” “The NTC’s motion is its own rebuttal,” Arao said. (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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