Association mining

Philippine Bar Association offers legal assistance to ‘targeted’ journalists

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Bar Association (PBA) on Tuesday offered legal assistance to “targeted” journalists and media as it viewed with “grave concern the series of lawsuits” filed against the media.

In a statement, the PBA said it was aware that criminal cases can be “stressful and financially draining”.

“They take time and for those who don’t have easy access to a competent lawyer, they can become debilitating experiences. The scope and breadth of journalists targeted, not to mention the amount sought from each (P200,000,000.00) leaves no doubt that this multitude of lawsuits will introduce a ‘chilling effect’,” said the association.

“As lawyers who believe in the importance of freedom of the press, we cannot sit idly by and let this happen. The PBA will not allow libel law to be weaponized against the vanguards of our democracy,” he added.

Thus, the PBA offers journalists the assistance of its members – who are among the “most distinguished” lawyers and law firms in the country.

They can contact the main PBA office by phone at 8815-2485 or by email at [email protected]

“We are extending this service in recognition of our courageous journalists who have fearlessly performed their constitutional duty for years. We rely on our press to always seek the truth,” the association said.

“We ask our journalists to keep writing facts. But their readiness to do so remains only to the extent that they themselves are free – free from fear, from fear of harassment. If we want them to stay ‘free’, we must do our part to keep them that way,” the PBA added.

The group of lawyers also noted that a free press “keeps the light of freedom burning even during the darkest days of martial law”.

“They fought for the public’s right to know countless times. The rule of law to which every lawyer is loyal is kept strong by the light that a free press shines. When the Fourth Estate is under siege, those of us who believe in these freedoms must offer what we can to help them.

“We call on our other colleagues in the legal profession to also seize this opportunity to help our beleaguered journalists. And to those in the press who have felt the cold tinges of fear, the PBA assures you that we are with you. You are not alone,” the PBA said.

Before the PBA released the statement, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and Davao businessman Dennis Uy filed separate defamation and cyberlibel suits against several media outlets for reporting “defamatory and false statements on the controversial Malampaya agreement.

Cusi demanded that the defendants pay 200 million pesos in damages for damaging his “reputation and good name in government.”


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