Saturday, April 26, 2008

Perdices and prior restraint

Let me give an update of the defamation case filed by Mayor Perdices against the Australian Dindo P. Generoso.
Mayor Agustin Perdices has foreclosed any settlement of his defamation case against Dindo Generoso during last Thursday’s preliminary conference.
Perdices told the court there wasn’t any settlement because according to him, Dindo Generoso did not comply with his demand that Dindo submit to him a pre-publication draft of Dindo’s column where Dindo was to admit he was wrong.
When I heard this from the mayor, I almost choked.
I thought I would collapse in the courtroom.
Seriously, Perdices may not have realized this but, with all due respect to him, what he demanded was precisely what is abhorred by our constitution.
Our constitutional system prohibits what is called prior restraint.
Prior restraint is an official restriction on free speech prior to publication.
The state, which includes its officials, including mayor Perdices of course, is prohibited from exercising prior restraint.
But this is exactly what Perdices wanted to do. Censorship.
You may not believe it. I couldn’t. But it actually happened.
Perdices wanted a newspaper columnist to submit to him a draft of his article prior to publication!
My goodness.
Perdices wanted to play the role of newspaper editor, and attempted to take over the job editor-publisher publisher Ely P. Dejaresco.
Perdices wanted to make a pre-publication review of the draft of a columnist and see if it meets his approval.
The problem is, even if Perdices applies as editor of the Negros Chronicle., he will not be hired because he is not qualified.
Therefore Perdices, even if he is mayor, and no matter how mighty he thinks of himself, has no business making pre-publication reviews of any article in the Negros Chronicle.
Hands off, Mr. Mayor.
Frankly, I never realized the mayor’s ignorance of the role of a free press in our democratic system.
The last time the state imposed screening restrictions on the press, it was during martial law.
Back in the feudal days where kings ruled, if there had been newspaper men already, then it could have been allowed.
But we live in a different system now.
It is called democracy.
And a mayor is not king. He is supposed to be a “servant of the people” (This is how politicians inaccurately portray themselves during elections: sulugu-on sa haring lungsod ek ek nimo).
I don’t want to say this but I think Perdices’ battery of legal advisers should at least give him a crash lecture on the concept of prior restraint.
Perdices, the client, sounded so funny in court that day.
He did not know what he was talking about.
I really feel sorry for him.

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