Sabio: Lopezes my slayers

Businessman’s bribe allegations filthy lies

By William B. Depasupil, Reporter

Embattled Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. of the Court of Appeals called as “filthy lies” the allegations hurled against him by a businessman in connection with a row between two divisions of the appellate court over which should handle a case involving Meralco and the GSIS.

Sabio, during a press conference held on Friday, said he is bracing for the worst from the Lopez family that he claimed was financing the move of the businessman—Francis Roa de Borja—to destroy his integrity. The Lopezes are the majority owners of Meralco, the country’s biggest power distributor.

The appellate-court justice said that someone had tried to bribe him with P10 million for him to inhibit himself from the case that concerns control of the utility.

On Thursday evening, de Borja said he was the person alluded to by Sabio but denied that he had offered the bribe.

“I expect matters to get worse because I am up against the billions of the Lopezes,” he told reporters.

Sabio dared de Borja, a long-time friend of his, that they both take a lie-detector test to determine who is telling the truth. Meanwhile, he said, he is considering filing “bribery and perjury” cases against the businessman from Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental province.

“At the onset, I must state that I cannot even begin to express my anger, outrage, disgust that a person whom I treated with civil respect and kindness; and whom I thought I respected would impute such filthy lies on me. But that Mr. de Borja would have the nerve to make these lies, under oath, is utterly disgusting when it was he who came to me with the offer of the bribe,” he said.

Twisted information

Sabio also claimed that the contents of de Borja’s 10-page affidavit were full of lies and twisted information as he vehemently denied the businessman’s accusation that he was willing to take the GSIS side for P50 million.

According to the appellate-court justice, he never initiated any contact with de Borja. “It was he [de Borja] who would call either me, or our mutual friend, Mrs. Evelyn Clavano, to meet up,” Sabio said. He added that de Borja was able to get his number from Clavano, a cousin of de Borja.

Clavano has issued an affidavit of desistance in support of Sabio, narrating the circumstances that led to Sabio’s meeting with de Borja.

“Francis de Borja requested me if I have the cell phone number of Justice Jose Sabio Jr. He [de Borja] related that because he is very close to the Lopezes of Meralco, he wanted to call him [Sabio] regarding his possible inhibition in a certain Meralco case, wherein he was designated as a substitute member of the division vice a justice who was temporarily on-leave by reason of sickness. He [de Borja] further said that the Lopezes desire that the same justice, with whom the Lopezes are more comfortable, sit in the division,” Clavano said in her affidavit. Sabio said de Borja’s first contact with him happened on May 31, or a few days after the Meralco case was raffled off.

“Mr. de Borja called me, so suddenly, and after having had no contact [with him] for almost a year,” he added.

The second contact, Sabio said, took place on July 1 and he later agreed to meet with de Borja after Sabio’s 8 p.m. class at the Ateneo Law School.

It was on that night that de Borja allegedly bragged that Manolo Lopez, the chairman of Meralco, was at Lopez’s car.

“At that point, he [de Borja] mentioned the impasse between Justice Bienvenido Reyes and myself,” Sabio said. He added that de Borja also bragged to him that he was responsible for Meralco’s hiring of the Villaraza law firm for the power distributor’s case against GSIS.

P10 million ready

“Then he [de Borja] explained that he was there to offer me a win-win situation. He said, ‘Justice, we have P10 million. Ready, ‘” Sabio said.

“At that point, I was shocked that he had a very low regard for me. He was treating me like there was a price on my person. I could not describe my feelings. I was stunned,” the appellate-court justice said. He added that he told de Borja, “I cannot in conscience agree to that [offer to bribe me].”

Sabio said he presumed that his refusal of de Borja’s offer was the last of it but to his surprise, their mutual friend, Clavano, called him a few days later to relay the offer, which according to him he also declined.

Clavano said de Borja had told her that the Lopezes want a justice with whom they are “more comfortable” to sit in the division.

After the incident, Sabio said, de Borja continued to pester him with calls asking him to reconsider his decision not to accept the P10 million.

Deadline nearing

In one call, Sabio added, de Borja even “reminded” him that the deadline for accepting the offer was near and asked him if he thought about the offer.

“Sayang kung hindi ito tatanggapin, sayang ang P10 million [What a waste if you will not accept the P10 million],” the appellate-court justice quoted de Borja as saying.

“I could not believe he would repeat an offer. I repeated my no . . . He could not understand,” Sabio said. “If I accept that [offer], my conscience will bother me forever.”

He said de Borja then told him that after two to three weeks, “Makakalimutan ito ng tao [people will forget about it],” and that other Ateneans had accepted bribes before. According to Sabio, de Borja and the Lopezes were conspiring to portray him as a corrupt judiciary official. He said he had been warned by friends that something might happen to him.

“The Lopezes will do everything possible using their money and power to discredit me. This is just the beginning. I know that they will not stop at doing everything to discredit my integrity,” he added.(ManilaTimes)

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