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SC issues gag order to stop public comments on WPS Kalikasan case

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By Rey Panaligan

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday (July 16) stopped government and private lawyers from commenting publicly on the issues involved in the petition for a Writ of Kalikasan in the West Philippine Sea.

Supreme Court (MANILA BULLETIN)

Supreme Court (MANILA BULLETIN)

During its full-court session, the SC justices decided to issue a gag order after the lawyers traded contradicting statements on the reported disowning by the fishermen of their petition filed through the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

The supposed petition wanted the SC to compel the government to protect, preserve, and rehabilitate the Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal, Ayungin Shoal, and Mischief or Panganiban Reef in the WPS.

The SC had directed the government, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), to answer the petition.  It also set a two-day oral argument on the issues.

However, the second day of the oral arguments last July 9 was canceled after Solicitor General Jose C. Calida manifested to the SC that the group of Zambales and Palawan fishermen has decided to withdraw their signatures from the petition.

Calida then moved for the withdrawal and eventual dismissal of the petition filed by the fishermen.  He had earlier sought the dismissal of the petition in his comment.

He told the SC that the IBP filed the petition without the express consent of the fishermen who were denominated as petitioners in the case.

He submitted the affidavits of the 19 fishermen who manifested the withdrawal of their signatures and eventually the petition. He also presented a video interview of the fishermen who detailed their involvement in the filing of the petition.

After a closed-door session with the SC justices, Calida said that both parties in the petition agreed to file a joint motion to dismiss.

In a television interview last Monday, Calida said the lawyers who filed the petition could be disbarred for filing the case without the consent of the fishermen.

On the part of the private lawyers, Chel Diokno accused the government of having a hand in the withdrawal of the petition.  He also claimed government lawyers may have violated legal ethics.

Diokno also said that the fishermen filed the petition “with their full knowledge and consent because they want to freely fish in our own sea and have enough income to raise their families.”

IBP national president Domingo Cayosa, on the other hand, asked for 10 days to confer with the fishermen before filing any pleading with the SC.

The SC is expected to tackle the petition anew on Tuesday next week during its full-court session.

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