Sunday, 4 December 2011

Enforce the sub-judice rule

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — The recent filing of the criminal case against former President and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo raises several public speculation on the case as to whether it will be fairly decided.

On this score the rule of sub-judice comes to play which rule the general public may not be fully aware hence a short discussion on the matter.

Sub-judice – under or before a judge or court; under judicial consideration: undetermined (Black Law Dictionary). In plain language, it is resolving or deciding of a pending case in court. Thus, for the sake of fairness, it shall not be commented on during its pendency. Doing so, shows lack of respect for the integrity and impartiality of the court and may prejudice the right of the parties. Like any other person, the judge may succumb or be influenced by it either deliberately or unconsciously.

For this reason, courts can cite for indirect contempt any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice (Sec. 3 (d), Rule 71 of the Rules of Court). This proper conduct may be in the form of comments on the merits of the case like innocence or guilt of the accused, the credibility of the witness or the strength or the weakness of the case of the plaintiff and the defendant of vice-versa. The aforequoted rule is considered as a valid commitment of the constitutional right of freedom of speech.

However, despite its prejudicial effect, violation of sub-judice rule proliferates because of the failure of either parties or the court to have the violators of the rule cited for contempt or they themselves violate it. And then the losing party will complain that he did not get a fair trial or decision of the case but because of other consideration. On this score, for a fair and just administration of justice with the integrity of the court held in high esteem, the court and parties themselves, including the media in all forms, most refrain from making any comment on a case pending in court. In turn, the court should strictly enforce punitive action on any violation through contempt procedures either on its own initiative or upon complaint of the offended party.

And now is the time to do it before the administration of justice degenerates to a decision of the mob, especially when it involves the former President of the country.

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