SC junks appeal of CA justices in Meralco mess

THE Supreme Court yesterday denied with finality the motions for reconsideration filed separately by Court of Appeals justices that it suspended and reprimanded for improprieties on the disposition of the Meralco ownership case.

In a 33-page per curiam resolution, the Court en banc adopted in full its September 9 decision where it declared Associate Justice Vicente Roxas, ponente of the Meralco case, guilty of violating the Code of Judicial Conduct, grave misconduct, dishonesty, undue interest and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

The high court also suspended for two months CA Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. for breaking the shield of confidentiality that covers the disposition of cases.

CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. was severely reprimanded for his failure to provide leadership expected of him as head of the appellate court, and his admission of lapses in judgment.

Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes was reprimanded for being discourteous to Vasquez when he signed Roxas’ ponencia despite his July 22, 2008 request-letter to the presiding justice to decide which division of the CA – the Eighth Division with him as chairman or the Special Ninth Division chaired by Justice Sabio – should promulgate the decision on Meralco case.

Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal was admonished for being “too compliant” when she allowed herself to be rushed by Justice Roxas into signing the Meralco decision on July 8, 2008, without reading the parties’ memoranda and without deliberation among members.

In the per curiam resolution, the high court dismissed Roxas’ explanation that the “haste” in which his decision in the Meralco-GSIS case was promulgated was because of his intention to “efficiently” dispose of such, among others.

The Court held that the haste in which the decision was promulgated was taken in context with other suspicious circumstances and improprieties on Roxas’ part which led the three-man investigating panel composed of retired SC justices to believe that he was unduly interested in the Meralco-GSIS case.

Roxas, in his motion for reconsideration, had asked for suspension instead of a dismissal.

“We must emphasize that where the finding of administrative guilt is well supported by the evidence on record, as in this case, this Court must impose the penalty warranted under the law and prevailing jurisprudence,” the Court said.

On Sabio, the SC said he merely set himself up for another insult or assault on his integrity when he still called businessman Francis Roa de Borja even after he was offered the bribe.

“Taking his conversation with his brother and his encounters with Mr. De Borja together, Justice Sabio gives the impression that he is accessible to lobbyists who would unfairly try to manipulate court proceedings,” the Court said.

On Vasquez, the Court said that the former failed “to timely and effectively act in the chairmanship dispute between Justices Sabio and Bienvenido L. Reyes Jr. It stressed that the Presiding Justice should have stepped in to prevent the dispute and enmity between the two from escalating.

On Vidal, the Court clarified that her admonition was not in the nature of a penalty. It held that an admonition “is a warning or reminder, counseling on a fault, error or oversight, an expression of authoritative advice or warning.” – Evangeline de Vera(Malaya)

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