Quebec court prevents NTC from blocking Bulatlat website

A QUEZON City Magistrate’s Court on Thursday upheld’s appeal to stop the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) from blocking its news website.

In a resolution, the court said the order blocking access to the website violated freedom of speech and of the press.

“There is a violation or restriction of the plaintiff’s right to freedom of speech and of the press when his publisher’s and readers’ access to his website was restricted,” Associate Justice Dolly Rose said. R. Bolante-Prado in the order.

“The court’s resolution is a powerful but magnificent defense of the freedom of the press guaranteed by the Constitution,” Bulatlat tweeted. In June, the regulator ordered local internet service providers to block 26 websites that allegedly support the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front.

The order was issued at the request of former national security adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr.

Bulatlat sued NTC on July 8 and sought an injunction against the agency.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it was consulting with civic and grassroots groups on the United Nations (UN) mechanism to assess the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The U.N.’s Universal Periodic Review is an important step to ensure countries use best practices in upholding human rights, CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann C. de Guia said during a a press briefing broadcast live.

“The goal of the Universal Periodic Review is indeed laudable,” she said. “It aims to replicate and identify best practices on human rights dimensions in a particular country.”

“We have had a dialogue with our partner civil society organizations over the past two months, which has given us very solid discussions,” she added.

Ms. De Guia said the measure also draws attention to human rights issues in the country. The agency would submit a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Beverly L. Longid, an official with the indigenous peoples organization Katribu, said at the same briefing that indigenous groups still face discrimination, red-marking and land grabbing.

Free Workers Federation Vice President Julius H. Cainglet says President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s decision for the Philippines not to join the International Criminal Court shows a lack of commitment to accountability .

“This decision shows that inaction speaks louder than words,” he said.

Also on Thursday, attorney Dino S. de Leon said the dismissal of corruption charges against his client, former Senator Leila M. de Lima, reinforces signs of fabricated evidence in her drug trafficking cases.

“Leila de Lima’s camp and Leila de Lima herself were happy that this particular case was finally dropped and called for what it really is,” he told CNN Philippines. “It’s a scam, it’s a sham, it’s inconsistent, it has no footing to stand on.”

“We still hope, and the reason Senator Leila de Lima is fighting is that we cling to hope that one day justice will prevail.”

He added that Ms De Lima, who has been in prison since February 2017 for drug trafficking, was disappointed that it took five years for the Ombudsman to dismiss the charges on the basis of “fictitious testimonies”.

The Ombudsman dismissed corruption charges against Ms De Lima and her former assistant Ronnie Dayan as he found no probable cause for their indictment.

Ombudsman investigators have filed a complaint against the former lawmaker and her aide accusing them of conspiring to extort money from confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa

At least four witnesses have returned to their allegations of the former senator’s involvement in drug trafficking.

In a statement on Thursday, the Justice Department said the ombudsman’s decision complied with a 2017 DoJ resolution that disregarded Mr. Espinosa’s testimony in the absence of corroborating evidence.

Drug trafficking charges are different from corruption charges, he added.

In 2016, Ms. De Lima led a Senate investigation into vigilante-style killings in Davao when former President Rodrigo R. Duterte was the city’s mayor and vice mayor.

She was arrested a year later following allegations of involvement in drug trafficking.

Ms. De Lima lost re-election this year.

Political and human rights experts said the former lawmaker’s detention showed how easily the Philippine justice system could be abused.

Human Rights Watch said Ms De Lima spent five years in detention for a crime that key witnesses now dispute. — John Victor D. Ordonez

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