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Opinion

Who is lying?

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

I was more surprised than most when Rappler said  George and Amal Clooney were  supporting Maria Ressa, even if it has to contradict the Hague decision.

I was involved in the events which led Amal Clooney, then Amal Alammudin to defend GMA in the International Court of Human Rights. It is a separate story itself.

As I told former president Arroyo now Speaker Arroyo, I was with her mother, Baria Alammudin, editor of Foreign Affairs of Al Hayat to deliver her laundry to her Knightsbridge flat when I met her.

I was surprised because I was part of every move that led to the UNHR decision. Indeed Amal told me then that she wanted to know if the news was true. The Lebanese born lawyer said I should have the  permission of the principal (GMA) and her  lawyers, one of whom was Larry Gadon. I was granted permission and her lawyers  talked to Amal about GMA’s case, she did not say anything at the time.

I got a phone call from her many weeks after, and said she was on her way to Singapore to speak at the Singapore University, but she would pass by Manila if I could arrange a visit to GMA in the Veterans Hospital where she was imprisoned without bail.

She has interviewed every Philippine President but I did not even bother to help her get an interview with Noynoy Aquino. I gave her very specific instructions on what we would do to get into the jail of GMA. I would give my ID and write my name as a visitor but she was not to stop to wait for me but go straight ahead. I think the guards at the Veterans Hospital thought she looked too foreign, nothing to worry about.

Inside while she and GMA discussed her case and what Amal would do she had to open her radio full blast so the conversation would not be heard. With only one night to stay in Manila I brought her around parties I was invited to and even gave a dinner in her honor. I was more interested in the South China Sea dispute which is also an expertise of her law firm, Doughty Chambers with some of the brightest solicitors in their firm.

Here is the case filed by Amal with GMA’s Philippine lawyers. This was emailed to me by Atty. Larry Gadon. “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was President of the Republic of the Philippines for nine years, until 2010. She is currently an elected member of the Philippine House of Representatives.

Mrs Arroyo. has spent over three years in detention as a result of unproved and politically motivated criminal charges and without any conviction having been entered against her. During this period, the Philippine Government has failed to protect, respect and fulfill her rights under international human rights law, including the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Philippine law precludes the courts from considering a range of factors that must under international human rights law be taken into account in deciding whether pre-trial detention is necessary. Because she has been charged with an offence (plunder) that carries the maximum sentence of life imprisonment, Philippine law requires that a court must automatically deny bail if there is strong evidence of guilt. The court cannot – and did not, in her case – consider whether there is a risk of flight, evidence-tampering or re-offending, even though international human rights law requires detention on remand to be justified on such grounds if it is to be imposed. In denying bail to Mrs. Arroyo on this automatic basis, the Philippine court also failed to give any consideration to the possibility of applying less intrusive alternatives to pre-trial detention, even though this is required under international human rights law.

The Philippine court failed to even rule on Mrs. Arroyo’s bail for over a year, even though international human rights law requires courts to do so within hours or days of arrest.

Mrs. Arroyo’s treatment by Philippine authorities also disclosed a violation of her right to a fair trial under Article 14 of the ICCPR.

The criminal prosecutions against Mrs Arroyo were politically motivated and persecutory in nature. The presumption of innocence was also violated when public officials made inappropriate comments suggesting Mrs. Arroyo’s guilt before and during her trial. And the authorities failed to conclude the trial against her within a reasonable time, as required by Article 14.

Throughout her detention, Mrs. Arroyo has also been barred from accessing any means of communication, including internet access, a mobile phone or a laptop computer. These unduly restrictive conditions of detention breached Mrs. Arroyo’s right to seek, receive and impart information under Article 19 of the ICCPR and preclude her from performing her role as a democratically elected representative of the Filipino People and from taking part in the conduct of public affairs as she is entitled to do under Article 25 of the ICCPR.

Mrs. Arroyo’s case was filed before UN human rights bodies in Geneva by her international counsel, Amal Clooney and Katherine O’Byrne of Doughty Street Chambers. The UN will communicate Mrs. Arroyo’s case to the government of the Philippines and the authorities will be given an opportunity to respond. It is hoped that the UN can intervene on an urgent basis, given the long period she has already spent in detention and in light of her deteriorating health and need for specialist medical treatment abroad.”

At first I was not sure I could get the envelope with GMA’s pleading to Amal. She did not know that I had been invited to the wedding reception for the friends of Amal’s family and the guests crowded the couple making sure they could at least get a handshake from the handsome Hollywood actor. It was impossible for me to push in until I saw Baria her mother who was a good friend. I told her of my problem and she said “bring the envelope to my room” which was a few rooms from hers. That was how I got the envelope addressed to Amal’s law firm.

That was how the decision of the UN Human Rights got to Amal.

When Rappler published the decision last week I  thought it was another fake news. But it was a video tape and George Clooney’s voice authenticated his support for Mari Ressa.

But it was not fake news after all, it was George Clooney contradicting the UN Court of Human Rights and a photoshopped of Maria Ressa smiling at the bottom. What is happening?

AMAL CLOONEY

MARIA RESSA

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