Clooney

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    ‘With little doubt, Malacacang is recreating its own options to keep Clooney away from the country like it did in banning top officials from the UN and Amnesty International.’

    LAWYER Amal Clooney is undaunted by nothing on the planet as she continues to handle dreaded high-profile cases while going up against inhospitable totalitarian regimes. (Her husband, actor George Clooney, seemed less fearsome for marrying someone like Amal, who is Lebanese.) One of them dealt with human rights advocate Mohamed Nasheed, the first-democratically elected president of Maldives, who was tried and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Clooney led the legal team to quell the trumped-up terrorism charges against him in 2015. The death threats came, shaking her husband who fortified their home with CCTV cameras covering much of their home in the UK. A member of the legal team in Maldives had been stabbed repeatedly in the head.

    Tortured and maltreated, Nasheed, a former journalist, suffered various injuries in prison, including one on his spinal cord. Through Clooney’s fearless efforts, he was granted prison leave and brought to the UK for surgery. She also appealed to then British Prime Minister David Cameron to pressure the Maldives government to allow Nasheed to return home without being arrested. Two years ago, Nasheed had led his party to a landslide victory in Parliament with his former deputy as the new president.

    Stepping into Philippine shores as part of Maria Ressa’s legal team will expose Clooney to intense government pressures. Her international stature will probably help her defuse the brickbats from President Duterte’s political allies, but certainly not from the wretched trolls and their gutter tirades. With little doubt, Malacacang is recreating its own options to keep Clooney away from the country like it did in banning top officials from the UN and Amnesty International.

    Partisanship is never confined to political, social and legal issues. The opposing party is often subjected to a barrage of personal insults that have nothing to do with any civil or criminal case. The rabid verbal assault against Maria Ressa from the Duterte trolls and allies did not spare even her preferred sexuality which they turned into an enticing and humiliating subject. She can now be fairly labeled a criminal, but through what law?

    ***

    I could not connect the disparity between our monthly household electric payments and the May bill that made me almost fall off my seat. The average consumption of four of us at home has been P5,000 a month and there was no marked increase with any appliance usage. But I trust Meralco VP Joe Zaldariaga well enough to provide a valid explanation.

    Firstly, we should welcome Meralco’s decision to place the health and security of thousands of its meter readers and their families, as well as their customers, ahead of the power distributor’s financial well-being and a public backlash due to a potential shock bill. Meralco had to resort to consumption estimates based on the customers’ electricity usage three months prior the quarantine, a basic practice allowed by the Energy Regulatory Commission in case meter-reading is not possible.

    Meralco and the government have looked for ways to help consumers cope with this health crisis with efforts to bring down electric charges. Meralco has taken ERC’s advise to extend payments for consumption during the ECQ to up to six months for those consuming 200 kilowatt-hours a month or less based on the February bill. The higher consumption of residential customers for the months of March to May was normal given the hotter temperature.

    What became abnormal this year was that power usage had shifted from offices and shopping malls as the pandemic forced Filipinos to stay and work from home. Quarantine restrictions also left 2.8 million unread meters or 40% of customers who will expect a billing that covers four months’ consumption, instead of three.