Archive for the ‘Meralco case scam’ Category

SC junks appeal of CA justices in Meralco mess

October 16, 2008

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)

3 lawyers face disbarment over Meralco case

October 3, 2008

THE lawyer of First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo and two Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) counsels are not yet off the hook from the Meralco ownership case before the Court of Appeals (CA).

A complaint for disbarment was filed Thursday against lawyer Jesus Santos, also a member of the GSIS board of trustees, and GSIS counsels Estrella Elamparo and Orlando Polinar for their respective violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers.

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Alan Paguia, a former lawyer of deposed President Joseph Estrada, who himself had been suspended indefinitely by the Supreme Court (SC) in a separate case, filed the disbarment case as a taxpayer and lawyer.

In his complaint, Paguia alleged that Santos committed the same violations as Presidential Commission on Good Government chairman Camilo Sabio when the latter called up his brother, CA Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr., allegedly to influence him “to help the GSIS.”

The SC, in its September 9 decision, ruled that Camilo’s telephone call to relay to his brother the rightness of the GSIS’ cause constituted an impropriety in violation of the law, “prompted by a call from a member of the Board of Trustees of GSIS.”

Camilo’s action was referred by the Court to the Bar Confidant for appropriate action.

According to Paguia, it would appear from the record that Camilo would not or could not have committed the impropriety had Santos not prompted or instigated him to do so.

From that point, there was a “meeting of minds” between Santos and Camilo in conspiring to push for the GSIS’ cause, thus they are similarly situated, said Paguia.

“The impropriety would not have been committed without the instigation of Attorney Santos. Chairman Sabio appears to have been completely ignorant of the material facts until Santos informed him. It would follow that there was a meeting of minds between the two, pursuant to which the act of impropriety was committed,” he stated in his complaint.

Paguia further said that unless the SC treated Santos in the same manner as it applied Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility in the case of Camilo, the equal protection clause of the Constitution would be violated.

Canon 13 states that: “A lawyer shall refrain from any impropriety, which tends to influence or gives the appearance of influencing the court.”

As for Elamparo and Polinar, Paguia said their actions of personally furnishing CA Justice Vicente Roxas, ponente of the Meralco case, a copy of their motion to defer action on the petition filed by the Lopezes “patently tends to influence or gives the appearance of influencing Roxas.”

He pointed out that under the law, the act of filing any motion is complete the moment it is received by the receiving clerk.

In this case, Paguia said the two GSIS lawyers, instead of being satisfied with such completion of filing, persisted in personally furnishing Roxas a copy of their motion, clearly to impress upon him the urgency of their motion and for the magistrate to take immediate action. (ECV/Sunnex)

Disbarment case filed vs CA’s Sabio

September 22, 2008

A lawyer has filed a disbarment case against Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. who was suspended last Sept. 9 by the Supreme Court for two months in connection with the improprieties of appellate justices handling the Meralco ownership case.

Fernando Perito, in a petition filed with the Supreme Court Saturday, said he wanted to correct “what could have been an oversight or lapse of ethical application among members of the esteemed judiciary.”

Perito earlier sought the disbarment of Justice Sabio’s brother, PCGG chairman Camilo Sabio, for violation of legal ethics for his attempt to influence the magistrate “to help” the Government Service Insurance System in wresting control of Meralco from the Lopez family.

The SC has referred to the Bar Confidante the actions of Camilo Sabio.

The SC, in its per curiam decision, found Justice Sabio guilty of breaking the “shield of confidentiality that covers the disposition of cases in the Court in order to preserve and protect the integrity and independence of the Court itself” when he discussed the Meralco case with Camilo and businessman Francis de Borja.

The high court noted Justice Sabio indicated undue interest in the case when he refused to yield the chairmanship of the Special Ninth Division although its regular chair, Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes returned last June 10, 2008 after a leave of absence.

Perito said the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary provides that judges should exercise the judicial function independently and free from extraneous influence, inducement, pressure, threat or interference, direct or indirect from any quarter or for any reason.

(Malaya)

Editorial Cartoon: (CA Bribery Scandal) The Decision

September 10, 2008

A weak attempt to get rid of the shit.

Excerpts from SC panel’s report

September 10, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:37:00 09/10/2008

Presiding Justice Conrado M. Vasquez Jr.’s failed leadership as head of the Court of Appeals

He had been indecisive in dealing with the turmoil arising from the Meralco case. He vacillated and temporized on resolving the impasse between Justice Jose Sabio Jr. and Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes over the chairmanship of the division that should hear and decide the Meralco case.

He failed to take action on the reported bribe-offer by Meralco to Sabio. He hesitated to assert his leadership of the Court even when the parties repeatedly urged him to lay down the rule for them to follow. Was he hampered by the fact that he has relatives— two daughters— employed in the GSIS, and a sister who is a consultant thereof? He pleaded lack of authority. Was he not aware then, or did he discover too late, that… he is in fact authorized to act “on any matter” involving the Court and its members?

He should have convened the Court en banc as soon as the alleged bribery attempt on Justice Sabio was reported to him, for it was an attempt to corrupt a member of the Court, calling for the “protection and preservation of the integrity of the judicial processes” of the Court, hence an administrative matter cognizable by the Court en banc.

Vasquez admitted his “lapses in judgment.”

What is as appalling to the public as the reported attempt to corrupt a member of the Court of Appeals, was the silence, inaction and indifference that it elicited from the Presiding Justice who failed to recognize it as a crime and an outrage to the Court itself, requiring his immediate and forceful action and that of the Court en banc to deter similar future inroads upon the independence, integrity and honor of the Court.

Vasquez appeared to be unaware of some deficiencies or defects in the administrative procedures currently practiced in the Court of Appeals.

Irregular and improper conduct of Justice Vicente Q. Roxas

1. His inaction, as ponente [writer of the decision], on several motions of the parties

2. Roxas was dishonest and untruthful.

(a) Roxas admitted that the “Transcript of Final Decision,” which is supposed to be a transcript of the deliberation on July 14, 2008 of the Eighth Division on the final decision in the Meralco case was not a true “transcript” of the minutes of the meeting, but purely a “transcript from memory” because no notes were taken, no stenographer was present, and no tape recorder was used.

The so-called “transcript” is a fabrication designed to deceive that there had been compliance — when actually there was none — with the prerequisite of the IRCA [implementing rules of the CA] that consultation and/or deliberation among the members of the Division must precede the drafting of a decision.

(b) The statement in the “transcript” that it was a “recap from our previous deliberations” was another falsehood because there had been no previous deliberations.

(c) The reference in the “transcript” to a “Final Report of Justice Roxas” was also false for Roxas admittedly did not submit a “report” as ponente… The “Final Report” which he submitted was admittedly the decision itself, which he and Justice Bruselas Jr. had already signed. The “Final Report” was merely the title of the page that served as the cover of the decision.

(d) Although the parties were given 15 days after the hearing on June 23, or up to July 8, to simultaneously submit their memoranda and memoranda of authorities… Roxas prepared the decision before the parties had filed their memoranda in the case and submitted it to Justice Dimaranan-Vidal for her signature… His “rush to judgment” was indicative of “undue interest and unseemly haste,” according to J. Romero.

He cheated the parties’ counsel of time, effort and energy that they invested in the preparation of their ponderous memoranda which, as it turned out, neither he nor the other members of the Eighth Division bothered to read before signing his decision. He made a mockery of his own order for the parties to submit memoranda and rendered their compliance a futile exercise.

(e) Roxas’ testimony that when he brought the Meralco decision to Dimaranan-Vidal… it was only a draft for her to read, because she asked if she may read it, not for her to sign it, is completely false. The testimony was labeled by Dimaranan-Vidal as a lie, and she called Roxas a liar, because she did not ask to borrow the decision for her reading pleasure, but Roxas personally brought it to her office for her to sign as a member of the Special Ninth Division.

(f) Roxas was thoughtlessly disrespectful of a colleague… when he unceremoniously discarded, shredded and burned the decision that Dimaranan-Vidal had signed, because he allegedly forgot that Dimaranan-Vidal and Sabio had already been “reorganized out” of the Special Ninth Division as of July 4, hence, out of the Meralco case.

The truth, it seems, is that Roxas, who had consulted Justice Villarama Jr. on which Division should decide the Meralco case, may have been convinced that it should be the Special Ninth Division. That is why he brought his decision to Dimaranan-Vidal for her signature. However… while Dimaranan-Vidal was patiently poring over his decision, Roxas was persuaded to bring his decision to the Eighth Division (to which he and Justice B.L. Reyes belong after the July 4 reorganization of the Court), it may have dawned on him that if the case remained in the Special Ninth Division, Sabio might dissent, requiring the Presiding Justice to constitute a special division of five.

If he (Roxas) should fail to obtain a majority of the Division on his side, he would lose his ponencia; someone else would become the ponente (perhaps Sabio). That may be the reason why he junked Sabio and Dimaranan-Vidal (even if the latter concurred with his decision) because he was unsure of Sabio. He chose to cast his lot with his companions in the Eighth Division — Reyes and Bruselas — with whom he and Meralco were “comfortable.”

(g) Roxas was disrespectful to Presiding Justice Vasquez Jr., whose ruling on his “Interpleader Petition” he sought on July 21, but he promulgated the Meralco decision two days later on July 23, without waiting for Vasquez’s ruling which came out on July 24… Vasquez was embarrassed and humiliated by Reyes’ and Roxas’ lack of courtesy and respect for his position as head of the Court.

Irregularities and improprieties committed by Justice Jose L. Sabio Jr.

1. Sabio’s telephone conversation with his brother, PCGG Chairman Camilo Sabio

…. As both Secretary Camilo L. Sabio and Justice Sabio, Jr. are lawyers, they should know that Secretary Sabio’s phone call to Justice Sabio constituted a violation of Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers.

Ironically, both of them found nothing wrong with brother Camilo’s effort to influence his younger brother’s action in the Meralco case, because both believe that our Filipino culture allows brother-to-brother conversation, even if the purpose of one is to influence the other, provided the latter does not agree to do something illegal.

For his part, although Justice Sabio against his brother’s advice, did sign the TRO in favor of Meralco, his unusual interest in holding on to the Meralco case, seemed to indicate that he may have been actually influence “to help GSIS” as Secretary Sabio had advised.

By allowing his brother to influence his conduct in the Meralco case, Justice Sabio violated Sections 1, 4 and 5, Canon 1 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippines Judiciary.

Justice Sabio was remiss in his duty to inform the Presiding Justice about Secretary Camilo Sabio’s call to him which he admitted was unethical as his brother tried to influence him.

2. Francis de Borja’s cell phone call to Justice Sabio, on May 31 was a wake-up call that Sabio should have heeded.

De Borja who describes himself in his affidavit as a deal maker or project packager, met Justice Sabio some 10 years ago when the latter was still an RTC Judge in Cagayan de Oro.

De Borja said in his Affidavit that: “Having enough confidence in our friendship” he decided to call up Justice Sabio on his cell phone on May 31 “to talk about the Meralco/GSIS/SEC case.”

Knowing the nature of Borja’s profession, Justice Sabio, should have been wary of the former.

Sabio’s action of discussing the Meralco case with De Borja was highly inappropriate and indiscreet.

The investigating panel finds more credible Justice Sabio’s story about De Borja’s P10-million bribe-offer on behalf of Meralco, than De Borja’s denial that he made such an offer.

However, Sabio was again remiss in his duty to make a full disclosure of the bribery attempt when he mysteriously withheld the name of De Borja as the bribe-giver.

Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes was discourteous to Presiding Justice Vasquez

Reyes addressed a letter on July 22 for Vasquez, reiterating his request that Vasquez decide which Division of the Court of Appeals [will handle the Meralco case]. The Presiding Justice told him and Roxas who had filed an interpleader the previous day, that he would study the matter. However, Reyes and Roxas decided not to wait for Vasquez’s opinion/ruling. Without withdrawing the interpleader petition nor his (Reyes’) letter request …they promulgated the Meralco decision on July 23. Vasquez was completely taken aback when he learned about it on July 24… He felt belittled and humiliated by the discourtesy of the two justices to him.

Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal was too compliant

Vidal deviated from the IRCA when she allowed herself to be rushed by Roxas to sign the Meralco decision…without reading the parties’ memoranda and without the deliberation among members of the Division required by the IRCA. She knew that the TRO would not expire until July 30 … yet she allowed herself to believe Roxas’ misrepresentation that signing the decision was urgent. Her compliance with certain dissembling practices of other justices of the Court, in violation of the IRCA, showed weakness and lack of independence on her part.

Prepared by Kate Pedroso and Schatzi Quodala, Inquirer Research

Timeline: CA bribery case

September 10, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:55:00 09/10/2008

May 27 – The GSIS gets from the SEC a cease-and-desist order (CDO) to stop the counting of proxy votes during the Meralco stockholders meeting and election in May. Meralco ignores the CDO, announcing that the SEC order is “null and void”, since the order does not a carry a docket number, has no official seal, and only signed by an officer in charge and not by the entire commission sitting en banc.

May 28 – SEC orders Meralco to explain why it should not be cited in contempt for ignoring the CDO.

May 29 – Meralco goes to the Court of Appeals to oppose the SEC directive. The Meralco petition is raffled to the Special 9th Division.

May 30 – Justice Jose Sabio is chosen as acting chair of the 9th Division (taking the place of Justice Bienvenido Reyes, regular chair of the 9th Division and who is on vacation leave) with Justices Myrna Dimaranan Vidal and Vicente Roxas as members. Roxas is designated the ponente, or the designated writer of the decision.

The 9th Division hears the oral arguments in the case.

The appellate court issues a temporary restraining order on the SEC order.

July-A reorganization takes place in the Court of Appeals and Roxas is transferred to the 8th Division.

Reyes returns to duty and reclaims chairmanship. Sabio opposes.

Roxas, on the other hand, upon his transfer to the 8th Division, brings the case along with him since he is the ponente.

Both Reyes and Roxas ask CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez, Jr. to issue an opinion on who has jurisdiction on the Meralco case. Vasquez fails to immediately resolve the impasse.

July 23 -The CA’s 8th Division – headed by Reyes, with Justices Antonio Bruselas Jr. and Roxas as members – voids the SEC CDO.

July 24 -Vasquez finally issues an opinion on the squabble, saying that it’s the 9th Division that should rule on the Meralco case. The opinion is of course rendered useless since the Reyes-led division has already promulgated a ruling just the day before.

Sabio and Vidal protest the promulgation.

July 26 – Sabio tells Vasquez in a letter that he had been offered P10 million on July 1 to inhibit himself from the Meralco case. Sabio says the offer was made to him by a Makati businessman brokering for Meralco.

July 31 – The CA holds a rare en banc session and decides that it will elevate the issues to the Supreme Court.

Aug. 4 – The high court forms a panel to investigate the bribery allegations.

Minerva Generalao and Eliza Victoria, INQUIRER Research

CA justice in bribe row dismissed

September 10, 2008

MANILA — A Court of Appeals (CA) justice was dismissed while another was suspended for two months over alleged impropriety and irregularities in handling the Meralco ownership case.

A three-man panel created by the Supreme Court (SC) recommended the sanctions, and the SC en banc, in a per curiam decision, adopted these and dismissed from service Associate Justice Vicente Roxas.

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Roxas was found guilty of multiple violations of the canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct, grave misconduct, dishonesty, undue interest, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.

The high court likewise voted to forfeit all of Roxas’s benefits, except accrued leave credits if any, with prejudice to his re-employment in any branch or service of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations.

Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. was found guilty of simple misconduct and conduct unbecoming of a justice of the CA and was ordered suspended for two months without pay, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts will warrant a more severe penalty.

The court also severely reprimanded CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. for his indecisiveness, while Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes was meted with a reprimand. Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal meantime was admonished by the SC to be more circumspect in the discharge of her judicial functions.

The SC also referred to the Bar Confidant the actions of Sabio’s elder brother, Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chairman Camilo Sabio, of influencing the judgment of a member of the judiciary in a pending case.

The high court also referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ) the allegations of Justice Sabio that businessman Francis de Borja offered to bribe him with P10 million in exchange for his inhibition in the Meralco case.

Except for Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who were allowed to inhibit themselves from the case, the magistrates voted as follows: 12 voted to dismiss Roxas, while one voted for his suspension from service for six months.

For Justice Sabio, 10 SC justices voted for his two-month suspension, one voted for six-month suspension, one for reprimand only as he should be credited for being a “whistleblower,” and one for his dismissal from service.

Eight SC justices voted to reprimand Reyes and five were for his suspension from service for one month. As to the rest, the voting was unanimous.

Associate Justices Martin Villarama Jr., Edgardo Cruz, and Apolinario Bruselas managed to escape censure from the SC although they were also investigated by the panel for their participation in the fiasco.

In ruling for Roxas’s dismissal, the SC said the CA justice “inexcusably failed to act on a number of motions of the parties prior to the promulgation of the (Meralco) decision,” such as the Government Service Insurance System’s motions that he inhibit himself and to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) that the Eighth Division issued in the initial stages of the case.

The High Tribunal likewise said Roxas has been dishonest and untruthful in relation to his disclosures to the panel, citing the alleged fabrication of the “transcript,” which he said was “designed to deceive that there had been compliance with the prerequisite of the Internal Rules of the CA (Irca) that consultation and/or deliberation among the members of the division must precede the drafting of a decision.”

“Indeed, the fabrications and falsehoods that Justice Roxas blithely proffered to the panel in explanation/justification of his questioned handling of the Meralco case demonstrated that he lacks the qualification of integrity and honesty expected of a magistrate and a member of the appellate court,” the per curiam decision stated.

Under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, dishonesty is considered a serious offense that may warrant the penalty of dismissal from service, even for the first offense.

The panel also found that Justice Sabio committed improprieties, citing the telephone call made by his brother. It stated that Justice Sabio failed to uphold the standard of independence and propriety expected of him as a magistrate of the CA.

It further noted that although Justice Sabio signed the TRO in favor of Meralco contrary to his brother’s advice, his “unusual interest in holding on to the Meralco case” seemed to indicate that he might have been actually influenced by his brother “to help GSIS.”

The panel said: “Justice Sabio broke the shield of confidentiality that covers the disposition of cases in the Court in order to preserve and protect the integrity and independence of the Court itself,” when he talked with brother and with de Borja about the Meralco case.

The panel cited that Justice Sabio adamantly refused to yield the chairmanship of the Special Ninth Division although its regular chairman, Reyes, had returned to duty on June 10, 2008.

Vasquez, for his part, was severely reprimanded for his failure to act promptly in order to avert the incidents that damaged the image of the CA, with a warning that similar acts in the future will warrant a more severe penalty.

The SC said Vasquez failed to provide leadership expected of him as head of the appellate court, and his admission of his lapses in judgment.

“This Court is of the view that much of the trouble now being faced by the CA could have been averted by timely, judicious, and decisive action on the part of the presiding justice (PJ). Certainly this unpleasant and trying episode in failure to act in the early part of his tenure as PJ has indelibly impressed upon him what is required of him as leader of the second highest court in the land,” the SC said.

In so far as Reyes is concerned, the SC adopted the panel’s finding that he was “discourteous” to Vasquez when he signed Roxas’s ponencia despite his July 22, 2008 request-letter to the presiding justice to decide which division of the CA – the Eight Division with him as chairman or the Special Ninth Division chaired by Justice Sabio – should promulgate the decision on the Meralco case.

As far as the role of Vidal, the SC panel found her “too compliant” particularly when she deviated from the Irca and allowed herself to be rushed by Roxas to sign the Meralco decision on July 8, 2008, without reading the parties’ memoranda and without the deliberation among members of the division required by the Irca.

Roxas is the second magistrate of the CA to be dismissed during the stint of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, following Elvi John Asuncion.

His dismissal came following a resolution of the SC last August 19 that fined him P15,000 for his failure to resolve two motions for reconsideration in another case lodged in his division, with a stern warning that his commission of any act of impropriety in the future will merit a more severe penalty.

In that case, Roxas was charged with dishonesty and grave misconduct but the SC dismissed these charges and found him liable only for failure to resolve the motion for reconsideration and accountable for undue delay in resolving the motion for reconsideration, in violation of Section 9 (1), Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as well as of Section 5, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary.

The SC decision was based on the report and recommendations of the panel composed of retired SC justices Carolina Grino-Aquino, Flerida Ruth Romero, and Romeo Callejo that found the five justices liable for administrative offenses, including violations of the Irca and the Code of Ethics of lawyers and justices.

Roxas was unavailable for comment as of Tuesday evening, but his staff said the CA justice has locked himself inside his chambers the whole day and left early after learning from the media about his dismissal.

Justice Sabio, who also could not be reached for comment, was in Bohol for an official leave, but his staff said he was to return to Manila late Tuesday afternoon as he still has classes at the Ateneo Law School in the evening. (ECV/Sunnex)

The Depth of Corruption at the Appeals Court

September 2, 2008

The Meralco case is not about public interest; it is all about conflicting business interests. And it is being decided not on the basis of the strength of arguments but by the power of money and influence. This is the depth by which our system of governance, and of rendering justice have been corrupted.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
ANALYSIS
Vol. VIII, no. 30, August 31- September 6, 2008

First came the seeming whistle blower, Justice Jose Sabio Jr. who claimed that he was offered P10 million ($217,746 at an exchange rate of $1=P45.925) by someone close to the Lopezes to step aside and let Justice Bienvenido Reyes preside over the division that would decide on the intra-corporate dispute between the Lopez family and GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) Chair Winston Garcia in the battle for control over the Manila Electric Company (Meralco). But suspicions shifted to purported whistle blower Sabio after businessman Francis de Borja appeared saying that Sabio told him he was offered a Supreme Court seat and an undisclosed amount of money to rule in favor of GSIS.  Sabio, according to Borja, said that it would take P50 million ($1,088,731) for him to resist pressures from the Arroyo government.

Who is telling the truth?

It did not help any that at the hearings of the investigation panel formed by the Supreme Court (SC), which was comprised by retired justices, the honorable justices of the Court of Appeals (CA) started bickering and accusing each other of violating judicial processes to favor one of the contending parties. What was revealing during the hearings was that the bickering justices gave inconsistent statements; and worse, there were numerous violations of judicial processes and ethics putting into question the integrity of the second highest court of the land. Clearly, partisan interests were at work and the (dis)honorable appellate court justices were acting in behalf of opposing parties.

Then came the admission of Justice Sabio that his brother Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Chair Camilo Sabio called him up suggesting that he rule in favor of GSIS. But that was not all, Camilo Sabio, during his testimony, revealed that he decided to call his brother after Jesus Santos, lawyer of Jose Miguel Arroyo and GSIS trustee, told him that the division handling the Meralco case, of which his brother was a member, was about to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in favor of Meralco.

The SC investigation panel was rightfully appalled at the obvious leakage of what was transpiring inside the walls of the appellate court. But what was more appalling was the PCGG chair who supposedly does not have anything to do with the workings and decisions of the Court of Appeals suddenly calling his brother lobbying for a decision favorable to GSIS. (Much like a Commission on Elections chair getting involved in the approval of a government contract that has got nothing to do with elections!) And he found nothing wrong with it?  The investigation panel hit the nail in the head when they said that Sabio was blurring the line between what was ethical and not, between what was right and what was wrong.

Worse, he admitted that he did so because he was prompted by a GSIS trustee who just happens to be, or so they claim, the lawyer of the husband of the president.  Santos was quick to claim that Jose Miguel Arroyo has got nothing to do with his act of trying to influence the decision of the CA.

The root of the controversy

The whole controversy and intra-corporate battle for control over Meralco began when Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unleashed her trusted enforcer Winston Garcia of the GSIS to wrest control of the electric distribution company purportedly to stop Meralco from overcharging its customers. PCGG Chair Sabio was using the same argument to justify his actions.

If the Arroyo government is really serious in bringing down electricity rates and preventing Meralco from overcharging, it should have reviewed and repealed the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, which deregulated and privatized the power industry thereby enabling power generating and distributing companies to set rates without seeking the approval of the government. It also enabled the Lopez family to purchase power generating companies, giving it the opportunity to control rates further and to profit twice: from generation and distribution charges.  Meralco’s being the largest power utility company providing power to 4.5 million people in 25 cities and 86 municipalities including Metro Manila, its vertically-integrated position – owning both power generation and distribution companies – and its profitability make it a favorite target of dictators and their greedy business partners.

Meralco posted a net income of P2.48 billion ($54,001,088) from January to June 2008 compared to P2.34 billion ($50,952,640) in the same period in 2007. Its distribution revenues alone amounted to P12.85 billion ($279,804,028) while its total revenues reached P49.1 billion ($1,069,134,458). These do not yet include the profits of its power generation companies.  Some quarters suspect – and not without basis – that the Arroyo government is interested in wresting Meralco from the Lopez family to hand it over to a favorite business partner, which is also into power distribution and generation, albeit not even half as big as Meralco.

The major issues involved

The controversy surrounding the handling of the Court of Appeals of the Meralco-GSIS case has turned out to be not merely a simple case of bribery nor has it put into question the integrity of only one or two justices; it is all about the independence of the second highest court of the land and the competence, or rather integrity, of its justices.

It is also not merely an intra-corporate battle, it is a tug of war between an economically powerful and monopolistic family, the Lopezes, and the Arroyo government, which allowed monopolies to exist, in the first place, because of its policies of deregulation and privatization.  The only problem for the Arroyo government is that the Lopez family is more identified with the opposition than part of its retinue of political supporters and business partners.

The Meralco case is not about public interest; it is all about conflicting business interests. And it is being decided not on the basis of the strength of arguments but by the power of money and influence. This is the depth by which our system of governance, and of rendering justice have been corrupted. And as we have mentioned in an earlier analysis, this case manifests the failure of justice and the failure of governance under the Arroyo government, where the distinction between what is right and what is wrong has been obfuscated. Bulatlat

Justice trains guns on CA chief, GSIS lawyers

August 20, 2008

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:20:00 08/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines—On his third day on the stand on Tuesday, Court of Appeals Justice Vicente Roxas trained his guns on CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. and lawyers of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Roxas presented what he termed “newly discovered evidence,” including the purported positions and high salaries of Vasquez’s relatives in the GSIS, and the alleged attempt of the state firm’s lawyers to “barge into” his private chambers.

Roxas said his first “evidence” was that Vasquez’s relatives—daughters Ruth and Agnes, niece Luisa Hernandez and sister Lenny de Jesus—were GSIS employees earning from P80,000 to P200,000 a month.

He said Vasquez did not disclose this to the CA en banc during its session on July 31.

Vasquez and GSIS lawyer Estrella Elamparo disputed the allegations, and Roxas later agreed that his information on the presiding justice’s relatives was hearsay.

Roxas was testifying at the daily hearing of the Supreme Court-created panel’s investigation of purported improprieties in the CA in connection with a case involving Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and the GSIS.

The panel is composed of three retired justices of the high court—Carolina Griño-Aquino, Romeo Callejo Sr. and Flerida Ruth Romero.

Roxas, the ponente (writer) of the decision favoring Meralco, was also questioned on his being a fraternity brother of the lawyers of Meralco.

In response, he said such ties were of no moment and did not affect his decision-making.

‘Greater interest’

“The purpose of the first newly discovered evidence is to show that the presiding justice had a greater interest in the case,” Roxas said at the start of the hearing.

But in the afternoon session where he was questioned by Vasquez, Roxas conceded that the information on the salaries of the presiding justice’s relatives was just hearsay.

He said he got the names of Vasquez’s relatives and their supposed posts from an article in the newspaper Malaya, and learned of their salaries from a piece of paper given to him.

“So you’re saying it to the panel on hearsay?” Vasquez said.

Roxas agreed, saying the information was not of his own personal knowledge.

Retired Justice Callejo observed that since the article did not name the source of the information, it was “double hearsay.”

Vasquez moved that Roxas’ testimony on his relatives’ salaries be stricken off the record.

‘Out of the blue’

Roxas also accused Vasquez of “rushing” his July 24 opinion, stating that it was the CA’s special 9th Division that should rule on the Meralco vs GSIS case.

Vasquez issued the opinion in response to a query from Roxas stemming from a dispute on whether it was the special 9th Division of Justice Jose Sabio Jr. or the 8th Division of Justice Bienvenido Reyes that should decide the case.

“PJ (Presiding Justice) Vasquez came out of the blue after the decision was promulgated [on July 23], which would put in a bad light the 8th Division” Roxas said, adding:

“It’s my opinion the PJ rushed his letter, if I may be blunt about it, to embarrass the 8th Division.”

But Vasquez contended that when he issued his July 24 opinion, he was unaware that the July 23 decision favoring Meralco had been promulgated a day earlier.

Had he known, he said, he would not have issued his opinion because it would have been rendered useless.

Retired Justice Romero asked why Roxas would, by the same token, even ask Vasquez for an opinion on the matter when Roxas and another justice had signed the decision by that time.

Roxas said that when he asked Vasquez for an opinion, he knew that he would get no response because the latter had claimed to have no jurisdiction over the dispute.

Elamparo’s ‘gall’

Roxas’ next “evidence” was a recent discovery from his staff that GSIS lawyers, including its chief legal counsel Elamparo, had tried to “barge into” his private chambers on the day Meralco filed the petition against the GSIS and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“The purpose is to show that Attorney Elamparo knew fully well, when she tried barging into the office of Justice Roxas, that she was committing a crime,” Roxas said, adding that Elamparo had also had the “gall” to allege that Meralco lawyers had met with him before a temporary restraining order was issued by the SEC on the inclusion of proxy votes at the May 27 Meralco board elections.

Elamparo, who also took the stand, denied barging into Roxas’ private chambers. She said that she and another GSIS lawyer did go to Roxas’ office, but only to give him a copy of their motion to defer action on the Meralco petition.

She also said they had introduced themselves as GSIS lawyers to Roxas’ staff, and did not get to meet the justice.

Frat ties

Roxas was also questioned on his ties with a Meralco lawyer and on his actions related to the case that “mystified” at least one panel member.

Retired Justice Aquino, the panel chair, asked Roxas about his being a member of the Sigma Rho fraternity in the University of the Philippines, and who among the Meralco lawyers were his fraternity brothers.

Roxas confirmed that Pancho Villaraza, Avelino Cruz, Simeon Marcelo and Reggie Angangco—of the well-known law firm bearing their surnames—were fellow Sigma Rhoans.

The Firm, as the law office is popularly called, represented Meralco during the oral arguments on the case.

Marcelo, a former Ombudsman, had earlier explained that the law firm was only recruited by Meralco in the middle of the case, for the oral arguments. He said it was chosen because of its expertise in intracorporate disputes.

Roxas said his being of the same fraternity did not affect his decision-making, and pointed out that a senator belonging to Sigma Rho had lost a case he had handled.

How many reasons?

Sabio questioned Roxas on the latter’s “zealous” guarding of the Meralco vs GSIS case.

“I wonder for how many million reasons you are guarding the case,” Sabio said.

Roxas objected to the question. Aquino sided with him and told Sabio to rephrase the question.

Roxas said he was not giving special attention to the case, and that he treated all his cases the same way.

Romero questioned Roxas on his giving a copy of his draft decision to Justice Myrna Dimaranan Vidal, who was not a member of the 8th Division to which Roxas was transferred.

He maintained that the copy he gave to Vidal was just for her reading pleasure and was not intended to be signed.

But Vidal said his claim was “preposterous” in light of his earlier testimony that he personally handled all papers related to a case to keep them confidential.

Advice to inhibit

Justice Martin Villarama told the panel of his suggestion to Roxas that the latter inhibit himself from the case.

Roxas had sought Villarama’s opinion on the dispute between Sabio and Reyes.

According to Villarama, he was then hearing unpleasant things concerning the Meralco vs GSIS case. He said he told Roxas that with or without a motion to inhibit, his advice to the latter was to run from the case “because there might be problems.”

He said Roxas’ response was: “I think I will follow your suggestion.”

===================

My Take:

Now, now.

It’s mud slinger’s game now.  But this is a welcome development to Filipino people.  Now we really can say that justice here in the Philippines is tainted by corruption, and we need general overhauling to clean it and to expect genuine justice.

Editorial Cartoon: CA Controversy

August 19, 2008

Direct hit to the Judiciary.

CA justice accused of being ‘liar, denial king’

August 14, 2008

By Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:40:00 08/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The rift among justices of the Court of Appeals over a bribery scandal has deepened after one accused the other of being a “liar and denial king” at the resumption of the investigation Thursday by a Supreme Court panel.

It was appellate court Associate Justice Vicente Roxas’ turn at the witness stand as he was questioned by his colleagues, led by Jose Sabio Jr., who has been at the center of the bribery allegations stemming from a case involving the Manila Electric Co., the Government Service Insurance System, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Roxas was the author of the decision by the appellate court’s 8th division, where he is chairman, which nullified an order by the SEC to stop the Meralco board elections following a GSIS petition to the commission.

But the controversy started when Sabio claimed an alleged Meralco emissary, businessman Francis de Borja, had offered him a P10 million bribe to inhibit himself from the case that was previously lodged at the 9th division, where Sabio was the chairman.

But De Borja said it was Sabio who had hinted at a P50 million bribe for him to accede to Meralco’s request. Both Sabio and Meralco had denied the allegations.

But during Thursday’s hearing, it was not Sabio who fired at Roxas but Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal who called her colleague a “liar and a denial king” over Roxas’ claims that it was the lady judge who asked him to go to her chamber and read to her the decision, which she had eventually signed.

Vidal and Roxas were then members of the 9th division.

Vidal’s accusations came after the panel asked Roxas whether the 8th division had jurisdiction over the case and why he had to go to Vidal’s office.

Roxas insisted that there had been a reorganization at the time. He said he brought the document to Vidal on July 8, after the reorganization was enforced July 4. “She’s a very nice lady before. She simply asked me, ‘Can I read it?’”

Roxas said that what he had showed Vidal was not an official transmission because the other records of the case were not attached to the decision that he had given his colleague.

“When I gave her [Vidal] the copy there was no rollo involved and no official receipt, meaning it was unofficial,” Roxas said.

“She being a nice lady, you cannot refuse her but you told her to sign it?” retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Flerida Ruth Romero asked.

But Roxas countered, “I only gave her [Vidal] an hour or two to read the decision and I had to get it back immediately.”

It was at this point that Vidal interrupted her colleague, saying “You are under oath. There was no request. Never, never did I request you to allow me to have a peek at your decision. It has all the earmarks of a final decision. You carry it in an expensive looking bag. In fact, you gained the monicker of my staff. They call you, ‘denial king.’”

Vidal also said that Roxas returned to her “looking worried and asked if I signed it [the document].”

“He looked relaxed when I told him that I had signed it, which made me believe that it was the final decision. Now I know he is weaving a set of lies,” said Vidal.

Sabio admits brother tried to influence Meralco case

August 12, 2008

Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Court of Appeals Justice Jose Sabio Jr. may have unwittingly involved his brother and admitted to more apparent lapses as he continued undergoing cross-examination Monday at the resumption of the hearing by a panel formed by the Supreme Court to investigate improprieties and an alleged bribery attempt related to the election of Manila Electric Co.’s board of directors.

Sabio was interrogated by panel members—retired Supreme Court Associate Justices Romeo Callejo Sr. and Flerida Ruth Romero—about his statement that his elder brother Camilo, chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, had shown interest in the case.

Vitaliano Aguirre II, appearing as counsel for Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, who was absent as he was in hospital due to a heart ailment, also quizzed Sabio about his brother’s involvement.

In his affidavit presented to the panel, Sabio recounted that Camilo called him up at around 8 a.m. on May 30 to convince him of the “rightness” of the stand of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the Meralco case.

The GSIS failed to wrest management control of Meralco from the Lopez family during the firm’s annual stockholders’ meeting in May. The state-pension fund accused the Meralco management of “abusive practices” that resulted in high electricity rates. Meralco denied the accusations.

Advance information

Sabio said he was “surprised” that his brother had advance information that he (Sabio) had been selected the third member of the division to which the Meralco case had been raffled.

“Didn’t you find that unethical? Did you berate your brother?” Callejo asked Sabio, reminding him that Camilo had nothing to with the case so he had no business intervening in it.

“It never occurred to me. I’m sorry for that; I should have done that,” Sabio replied, explaining that he did not chide Camilo because he “respected” him and because he told his brother that he would vote “according to my conscience.”

Sabio’s TRO

Sabio also told his brother that the most he could do was to have the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and injunctive relief scheduled for oral arguments, during which the respondents, the GSIS and SEC, must be able to convince him that the TRO did not have a legal basis.

Sabio was acting chair of the appellate court’s 9th Division that granted the TRO in favor of Meralco on May 30.

The TRO was served only minutes after the SEC adjourned a hearing during which Meralco was asked to explain its defiance of an SEC cease-and-desist order directing Meralco to set aside the unvalidated proxy votes of the Lopezes in the election.

The GSIS argued that the election of the Meralco board was tainted by illegitimate proxies and said the vote would have given the GSIS majority control if the illegal proxies were excluded.

Sabio and Reyes, the regular chair of the 9th Division, had a squabble about who should continue presiding over the hearings when Reyes returned from a vacation leave.

Following a reorganization at the court, the final decision on the case was rendered on July 23 by the 8th Division, chaired by Reyes. The 8th Division upheld Meralco’s argument that the SEC had no jurisdiction over the issue.

Camilo calls again

Aguirre was also able to elicit a new admission from Sabio that after the July 23 decision dismissing the case in favor of Meralco came out, Camilo called him up again to inquire about what had happened and why Sabio was not among the signatories.

“I said I was surprised that the decision came up and I said, ‘Well, it’s beyond me,’” Sabio replied.

Further questioning by Aguirre also brought up the issue of alleged “rigging of the raffle” at the appellate court because Sabio said that Camilo had called him up about the case at around 8 a.m. and that the raffle usually took place at 10 a.m.

Callejo said Camilo, by calling Sabio, may already have committed the crime of attempting to corrupt a public official, which is punishable under the Revised Penal Code.

Romero said she was bothered by Sabio’s attitude because the justice appeared to “take it for granted” and “seem to regard as normal” that proceedings in the Court of Appeals would leak to outsiders.

Asked about the leakage, Sabio said that he thought “the walls have ears” in the appellate court and that “people have a way of knowing.”

Callejo added that that Camilo’s advance information on the case should have bothered Sabio and that Sabio should have called up his superior, Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr., about the “leakage.”

“I really should have done that. I did not want to create another problem. But I was convinced of the urgency of the TRO,” Sabio said.

“It created more problems. It now involved three retired justices; we should be resting already,” Callejo said, referring to himself and the panel members and provoking laughter from the audience.

P10-million bribe offer

Callejo also asked Sabio if he was going to file a case against businessman Francis de Borja, who Sabio earlier claimed had offered him a P10-million bribe on behalf of the Lopez family.

Sabio replied that he was contemplating filing a case of attempting to corrupt a public official against De Borja.

Callejo said that in hindsight, Sabio should have immediately reported to Vasquez or even Chief Justice Reynato Puno about De Borja’s alleged bribery attempt.

Callejo said coordination with the National Bureau of Investigation might have been made and an entrapment operation against De Borja could have been conducted.

Inconsistency

Aguirre pointed out an alleged inconsistency in the way Sabio related the bribery attempt to his daughter Fides Angeli. Sabio said he texted his daughter on July 3 to tell her about the alleged P10-million bribe offer from Meralco, to which she replied on July 7.

At the hearing on Friday, Sabio showed his cell phone containing his July 3 text and her daughter’s own cell phone containing her July 7 reply.

Aguirre said one could alter the settings of one’s cell phone to any date so that the text message that the recipient would get would bear the date of the sender’s phone.

Romero commented that Sabio also took advantage of the fact that his other daughter, Sylvia Jo, was on Puno’s staff to write the Chief Justice about the alleged bribery attempt. Sabio said informing Puno was his daughter’s idea.

Kept in the dark

Earlier at the hearing, Sabio also faced a barrage of questions from Associate Justice Vicente Roxas, the ponente or the assigned writer of the decision, who complained that he was “deeply troubled” because Sabio had kept him in the dark about the bribery attempt.

“That (bribery attempt) was a criminal act and anything that seeks to unfairly influence the case directly affect the ponente and the decision,” Roxas said.

Sabio said he tried to reach Roxas several times but the latter made himself “scarce.”

Roxas also pointed out that Sabio was a mere “substitute” in the 9th Division and even produced a memo from Vasquez stating the substitute shall not participate in the rendering of any decision during the absence of Reyes.

Roxas said he had been hurt by Sabio’s defiance of the reorganization that brought Roxas and the case to the new 8th Division, Sabio’s putting him in “bad light,” and Sabio’s failure to tell him about the bribery attempt.

“Are you angry with me?” Roxas asked Sabio twice. Sabio replied: “I’m not angry with you, I just pity you.”

Fireworks explode at CA probe

August 9, 2008

By Mike Frialde
Saturday, August 9, 2008

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Fireworks erupted at the first hearing yesterday on allegations of impropriety committed by some appellate court justices in their handling of a case involving the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

Court of Appeals Justice Jose Sabio openly expressed dismay at being questioned by Associate Justice Vicente Roxas on his reported insistence to remain with the CA’s Special 9th Division even after a reorganization last July 4.

Yesterday’s hearing was presided by a panel of retired Supreme Court justices: Carolina Griño-Aquino as chairman and members Romeo Callejo and Flerida Ruth Romero.

The panel was also tasked to look into allegations that Meralco, through an emissary, had tried to bribe Sabio with P10 million to make him inhibit from a case involving the power firm and the Government Service Insurance System.

“Can you explain to me why Justice Roxas has to move to the 8th Division but Justice Sabio can stay at the 9th Division?” Roxas asked Sabio. The latter refused to answer claiming the question was “repetitive.” Justice Aquino stopped Roxas from pressing the question saying it was “argumentative.”

Sabio earlier alleged that businessman Francis Roa de Borja acted as Meralco’s “emissary” in the bribery attempt. Also at yesterday’s hearing were CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez, Myrna Dimaranan Vidal (6th Division), Martin Villarama (chairman, 3rd Division) and Edgardo Cruz, chairman of the 7th Division and head of CA’s Internal Rules Committee.

It was only Roxas, among the justices present, who questioned Sabio at length about the contents of his affidavit.

The investigating panel had also ordered the justices involved as well as De Borja to submit their respective affidavits.

After Sabio, it was Vidal’s turn to take the witness’ stand.

During questioning by the panel, Vidal admitted that she signed the 58-page “draft” decision of Roxas on the Meralco board election row without reading the memoranda submitted by Meralco, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the GSIS.

In the decision, the CA ruled that SEC had no jurisdiction over the Meralco board election row with GSIS.

Vidal testified that last July 8, Roxas went to her office with copies of the decision kept inside an “expensive looking” traveling bag. Vidal said Roxas handed her three copies of the decision for her signature. Vidal said the decisions already bore Roxas’s signature.

Vidal said she took the decisions home, signed them and gave them to Roxas the following day.

Asked by the panel why she signed the decision without the memoranda of the parties in the rollo or case records, Vidal said she was already familiar with the facts of the case.

Vidal got a rebuke when she admitted that she signed the decision because Roxas told her that a TRO earlier issued by the Special 9th Division would soon expire. Vidal got a dressing down from Callejo for her admission.

“You signed (the decision) without consulting the rollo and other memoranda? You are a justice of the Court of Appeals. You have your own mind. You are not a robot. You say you do not need the memoranda?” Callejo lashed out at Vidal.

Callejo also asked Vidal why she did not question Roxas for recommending that the SC take disciplinary action against the lawyers of the GSIS when the issue was not even raised by the parties in their pleadings.

“In that decision, he (Roxas) reprimanded the GSIS lawyers but it was not raised by the parties in their pleadings,” Callejo said. “Why penalize them?” he asked.

“It is for Justice Roxas to answer,” said Vidal.

“But you are a justice, for goodness’ sake. None of the parties raised the issue that GSIS lawyers be penalized. It jeopardizes the right of the lawyers to due process,” Callejo shot back. Vidal apologized.

“I hope that you have learned from this experience. Act on your own without relying on the assurances of a colleague,” Callejo told Vidal.

“We must assure the people that we can rule judiciously. It is tragic that these things happened at the Court of Appeals, the second highest court of the land,” Callejo said.

The hearings will resume on Monday and will continue until Aug. 21.

CA justices told to quit

Two crime-watch groups asked yesterday Vasquez and other CA justices to resign in the wake of allegations of corruption and impropriety.

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Citizen’s Crime Watch (CCW) raised the demand in a letter, a copy of which was hand carried to the CA.

VACC founding chairman Dante Jimenez said that Vasquez should resign because of command responsibility. They also expressed their support for Sabio.

“There will be no end to these bickering and charges and counter charges of bribery of CA Justices if your Honor do not make the supreme sacrifice of leading by example for the other CA Justices by resigning as CA (Presiding) Justice,” Jose Malvar Villegas, Jr. CCW founding chairman-president, said.

“This could lead to a top to bottom reorganization of the CA and give the appointing power the opportunity to reappoint the justices who are not tainted with corruption,” he said.

Villegas reminded Vasquez that his father, the late Justice Conrado Vasquez Sr. was a man of honor, integrity, and dedication.

He said it would be best for the justices to quit because Sabio’s exposé could unearth other irregularities and further diminish the credibility of the CA.

If the CA loses its credibility, CCW said the public might resort to vigilante justice.

Jimenez said his group wants an executive session with the members of the panel hearing the CA case.

In the executive session, Jimenez said they would name members of the CA, SC and trial court judges who habitually receive bribe money or are engaged in selling temporary restraining orders.

He also urged those who have witnessed or experienced corruption from corrupt members of the judiciary to come out in the open. With Evelyn Macairan(PStar)

Probe of CA case starts

August 8, 2008

By REY G. PANALIGAN

Eight Court of Appeals (CA) justices and a businessman were ordered yesterday to submit their affidavits in the investigation involving the allegations of impropriety and offer of bribe in the case between the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in connection with the power firm’s stockholders’ meeting last May 27.

Required to submit affidavits were CA Presiding Justice Conrado M. Vasquez Jr. and Associate Justices Jose Sabio Jr., Myrna Dimaranan Vidal, Bienvenido Reyes, Edgardo Cruz, Martin Villarama Jr., Vicente Roxas, and Apolinario Bruselas Jr., and businessman Francis de Borja.

The eight CA justices and De Borja — who were all present during yesterday’s start of investigation — were given until 4 p.m. yesterday to submit their affidavits to the SC clerk of court. They were ordered to furnish copies of their affidavits to those who may be alluded to in their statements, and those alluded to are given the option to submit their counter-affidavits.

Except for De Borja, the eight justices were directed not to engage the services of lawyers since they are lawyers themselves.

Legal observers said that during the hearings, it is expected that a CA justice would be pitted against a fellow appellate court magistrate during cross examinations or rebuttals of their respective affidavits.

The investigating panel composed of retired SC Justices Carolina Grino Aquino, Flerida Ruth Romero, and Romeo Callejo Sr. was given until Aug. 21 to submit its findings and recommendations.

Panel chairwoman Aquino said the submission of affidavits would expedite the proceedings.

The panel said it will hear the testimonies of Sabio, Vidal, and Vazquez starting at 9 a.m. today.

During yesterday’s proceedings that lasted for 30 minutes at the SC’s training center, Aquino requested members of the media “to refrain from recording the proceedings and giving interpretations on testimonies or affidavits presented.”

Aquino said that the proceedings would still be open to members of the media.

Callejo clarified that the affidavits to be submitted to the panel should contain certified true copies of the annexes, if there are any, so as not to belabor the panel later in requiring their submission.

Reacting to Callejo, Vasquez said that it would be hard for them to submit certified true copies, not only because of limited time given to submit affidavits, but also because all the original documents pertaining to the Meralco-GSIS case have been turned over to the SC.(MB)

Warring CA justices face off before panel today

August 7, 2008

BY EVANGELINE DE VERA

WARRING justices of the Court of Appeals will face off today before a panel of retired Supreme Court justices who will look into an alleged bribery attempt and the propriety of their acts in connection with the adjudication of the Meralco case last July 23.

The panel, chaired by Carolina Grino-Aquino with Flerida Ruth Romero and Romeo Callejo Sr. as members, has summoned CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. and Associate Justices Jose Sabio Jr., Vicente Roxas, Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal, Apolinario Bruselas Jr., Martin Villarama and Edgardo Cruz.

Also summoned was Cagayan de Oro businessman Francis de Borja, who Sabio claimed offered him P10 million in exchange for his inhibition from the Meralco case.

The SC panel is required to submit its report and recommendations by August 21.

SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the protagonists will be confronted with the documents gathered by the panel and which were submitted by the CA for investigation.

Marquez said the panel will likely first get the affidavits of the parties and to schedule their appearances “to make sure that they are available at the time they are called by the panel.”

The administrative matter stemmed from the complaint of Sabio that an emissary of a prominent businessman came to him offering the bribe to ensure a favorable ruling for the Meralco. He later claimed the emissary was De Borja, while the prominent businessman was none other than Meralco president and chief executive officer Manolo Lopez.

On the other hand, De Borja executed an affidavit stating that Sabio was offered blandishments by the government such as a promotion to the high court and money if he would rule in favor of the Government Service Insurance System over the counting of the proxy votes during the stockholders’ meeting of the power firm last May 27.

Sabio and Vidal questioned the alleged irregularity over the transfer of the Meralco case from the Special Ninth Division to the Eighth Division.

The Special Ninth Division issued on May 30, 2008 a temporary restraining order enjoining the Securities and Exchange Commission from implementing its orders stopping Meralco from including proxy votes of the Lopez bloc during the stockholders’ meeting.

The TRO was signed by Sabio, who was then the acting chairman of the Special Ninth Division since Reyes, the regular chairman, was on leave.

However, due to the retirement of several justices, the CA underwent a reorganization which resulted in the transfer of Roxas to the Eighth Division along with Reyes.

Bruselas joined Roxas and Reyes in the Eighth Division, which on July 23 issued the controversial ruling which upheld the control of the Lopez group over Meralco.

Vidal was reassigned to the Sixth Division along with Sabio, as chair of that division.

Villarama, on the other hand, was asked to appear after Sabio admitted that he consulted him on whether he should relinquish the chairmanship of the Special Ninth Division in favor of Reyes.

Sabio has been insisting that under the committee on the Internal Rules of the CA the justices who issued the temporary restraining order should be the same justices who should render the decision.

Villarama, according to Sabio, agreed with his position and advised him to remain as acting chair of the Ninth Division.

Sabio, according to Borja, vowed that he would hold on as acting chairman of the division for the case even if he had to elevate the matter to the SC.(Malaya)

3 retired SC justices to probe CA bribery case

August 5, 2008

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:18:00 08/05/2008

MANILA, Philippines—After a special en banc session, the Supreme Court Monday formed a panel that will investigate a scandal rocking the Court of Appeals in connection with irregularities surrounding the latter’s decision on the battle for control of Manila Electric Co. between the Lopez family and the Government Service Insurance System.

The panel, composed of three retired Supreme Court justices, was directed to hold daily hearings and submit its findings on Aug. 21.

Heading the panel is retired Associate Justice Carolina Griño-Aquino, with retired Justices Flerida Ruth Romero and Romeo Callejo Jr. as members.

Supreme Court spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez said the panel would determine whether the Court of Appeals justices involved in the Meralco-GSIS case acted improperly.

It would also look into the reported P10-million attempted bribery on Justice Jose Sabio Jr., allegedly by a businessman acting as a Meralco emissary.

“They will be tasked with investigating the proprieties of actions of the justices in the decision of the Court of Appeals and also the allegation in the attempt to bribe a justice of the CA,” Marquez told reporters.

Urgency

Marquez said the tribunal’s decision to hold a special en banc session showed that the issue hounding the second highest court of the land was important.

“The fact that the case was immediately calendared in a special en banc session … that already itself shows the urgency and importance of the matter,” he said.

The 8th Division of the Court of Appeals on July 23 voided the order issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) stopping and invalidating the Meralco elections on May 27, which was won by nominees of the Lopez family that controls the company.

The Court of Appeals order, which was released to the media the following day, was signed by the division’s head, Justice Bienvenido Reyes, and its two members—ponente Justice Vicente Roxas and Justice Apolinario Bruselas Jr.

The GSIS had challenged the Lopez family’s leadership of Meralco and sought the SEC’s intervention.

Management shake-up

The state-run pension fund, which owns 25 percent of Meralco, wants to shake up the management because it believes its majority stockholders, the Lopez family, have not done enough to bring down electricity prices.

Winston Garcia, GSIS president and general manager, demanded the validation of all the 4,483 Meralco proxies before voting could be allowed.

In its decision, however, the 8th Division ruled that the SEC had no jurisdiction over the case filed by the GSIS against Meralco, and that a regional trial court was the proper venue for controversies over elections in corporations.

The decision triggered scathing remarks from Justice Myrna Dimaranan Vidal, a member of the Special 9th Division, who said the 8th Division was not the proper body to rule on the GSIS-Meralco row.

Puno, Santiago, Carpio inhibit

Three Supreme Court justices inhibited themselves from the case.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno declined to participate because Sabio’s daughter is on his staff.

Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago inhibited herself from the case because her daughter works for Meralco, while Justice Antonio Carpio recused himself because he used to work for the Villaraza, Cruz, Marcelo and Angangco law firm, which represents the power utility.

Unceremoniously ousted

The controversy over the appellate court’s decision arose after Sabio and Vidal protested their unceremonious ouster from the case even though they were among those who heard oral arguments on it.

In his letter to Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez, Sabio called the circumstances surrounding the decision “fishy.”

Sabio also said that a businessman had attempted to offer him P10 million in exchange for inhibiting himself from the case and paving the way for another justice to chair the division that would decide on the case.

Feeling alluded to, businessman Francis de Borja executed a sworn statement saying that Sabio had informed him that the government had offered the associate justice a Supreme Court seat and money to favor the GSIS position.

When De Borja asked what it would take for Sabio to resist the government’s offer, the justice supposedly replied: P50 million.

Sabio said De Borja’s statements were all lies.

The Court of Appeals last week held a rare en banc session to discuss allegations regarding the Meralco case and decided to elevate to the Supreme Court the issue on the propriety of the justices’ actions.

CA internal rules

Over at the GSIS, its chief legal counsel Estrella Elamparo said the 9th Division chaired by Sabio should have decided on the Meralco case.

In a statement, Elamparo said that under the Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals, a case would stay with the original justices who heard it when the case had already been given due course and had already been submitted for decision.

She said the rules state: “When, in an original action or petition for review, any of these actions or proceedings, namely: (1) giving due course; (2) granting writ of preliminary injunction … the case shall remain with the Justice to whom the case is assigned for study and report and the Justices who participated therein, regardless of their transfer to other divisions in the same station.”

Elamparo added that when the oral arguments were concluded on June 23, the petition was deemed to have been given due course.

“There is no doubt that the special 9th Division gave due course to the petition after it set the same for oral arguments, required the parties to submit their memoranda and considered the petition submitted for resolution,” she said, quoting from the July 30 letter she sent Vasquez.

Elamparo also said the participation of the 9th Division’s justices in the case required in-depth analysis and were not just “token involvement.”

Failure of Justice, Failure of Governance

August 5, 2008

The scandal rocking the Court of Appeals is not merely a manifestation of the impunity prevailing under the Arroyo administration: the impunity in corruption and human rights violations.  It is already a manifestation of a failure of justice and a failure of governance.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
ANALYSIS
Vol. VIII, No. 26, August 3-9, 2008

Is Court of Appeals Justice Jose Sabio Jr. the whistle blower or the one who demanded for a bribe?  Was Justice Sabio offered a P10 million ($226,116 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.225) bribe by alleged Meralco emissary Francis Roa de Borja or did he ask for P50 million ($1,130,582) from the same to resist pressures from government – in the form of an offer of promotion to the Supreme Court plus money – to rule in favour of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS)?

That is for Justice Sabio and De Borja to prove and to contest, and for the Supreme Court to find out.  The amounts involved, P10 million ($226,116) and P50 million ($1,130,582), although substantial are peanuts compared to the P200 million ($4,522,328) offered by former Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Jr. to “Sec,” referring to former National Economic Development Authority Executive Director and current head of the Social Security System Romulo Neri to issue a favourable recommendation on the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with ZTE of China.  Neri was not even the principal in the foiled contract and he was offered P200 million ($4,522,328).  Imagine how much the principals were set to receive.

What is alarming with this nth corruption scandal involving the government is that it appears to be not a simple case of bribery but a bribery bidding war between the Arroyo government and the Lopez family in their struggle for control over Meralco. It seems that there is more to this case than what is being declared officially by the government.  It is easy to see why the Lopez family would resort to bribery, if ever they did. Their business interest – that is, their monopoly control over power distribution – is at stake.  But what is the stake for the Arroyo government?  Surely, bribing the judiciary is not the normal track for a government to follow if it is merely pressuring a company in this case Meralco to lower its rates for the benefit of the public.

Second, this bribery scandal involves not only the executive and legislative branches of government – which has become common fare under this dispensation – but also the judiciary. It is true that judges and justices are not immune to bribery.  But this case involves Malacanang bribing the Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the land.

In October, 2007, Malacanang was caught red-handed bribing legislators and local officials.  Arroyo government officials dished out feeble and absurd explanations regarding who gave out the money and where it came from, after Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio exposed the distribution of paper bags containing money to congressmen and local officials who attended a meeting at Malacanang.  There were also denials but footages were aired on television of congressmen and local officials carrying the same type of bags that Gov. Panlilio showed as evidence. After that, the view that the Arroyo government’s allies in congress and local government are routinely being bribed every time the administration’s hold onto power is being threatened has become common knowledge.

And now it is the judiciary, the last voice of independence under the Arroyo government, and the people’s last resort in a highly corrupted administration.  But bribery is not the only taint in the integrity of the judiciary and the fairness of its decisions. The Court of Appeals has dismissed three writs of amparo: on the abduction of Jonas Burgos, the enforced disappearance of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, and the abduction of the Gumanoy sisters.  The Supreme Court, despite having the eloquent and proactive Reynato Puno as Chief Justice, has upheld the Arroyo government’s right to invoke “executive privilege” twice already to the detriment of the people’s right to information and to check abuses by the government: on the graft-ridden NBN-ZTE deal and the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, which has questionable and unconstitutional provisions.  Chief Justice Puno had to write 200-page dissenting opinions, surpassing that of the controversial majority decisions of the High Court not only in terms of the number of pages but more importantly, in the soundness of arguments.

With these, what branch or institution of government can still lay claim to independence and which is still worthy of the people’s trust?  The lack of justice, which is now slowly becoming a trend, is because of the doings of the Arroyo government. Not only has it failed to provide the conditions for justice to flourish; worse, it has corrupted it and blurred the distinction between what is right or wrong, and what is just and unjust. The scandal rocking the Court of Appeals is not merely a manifestation of the impunity prevailing under the Arroyo administration: the impunity in corruption and human rights violations.  It is already a manifestation of a failure of justice and a failure of governance. Bulatlat

Editorial Cartoon: Shadow Boxing

August 2, 2008

Ala Pakyaw

Chief Justice moves on appeals court row

August 2, 2008

Sabio debunks De Borja P50-M claim

By Jerome Aning, Juliet Labog-Javellana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:16:00 08/02/2008

MANILA, Philippines–Chief Justice Reynato Puno has ordered the gathering of all documents pertinent to the bribery scandal at the Court of Appeals as the contending parties engaged in a back-and-forth of accusations related to the case between Manila Electric Co. and the Government Service Insurance System, Supreme Court spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez said Friday.

Puno issued the order upon learning that the Court of Appeals (CA) had decided to elevate to the Supreme Court the issue of the “propriety” of certain justices’ actions in connection with the case, Marquez said.

The Chief Justice “also ordered that the case be included in the Supreme Court’s deliberations on Tuesday,” he said.

Marquez said the high tribunal would hear both sides and could discipline the CA justices found to have erred.

The case involves the May 27 election of the board of directors of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the conduct of which the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), a major Meralco shareholder, had disputed.

CA Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. called a press conference—which he said had clearance from Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr.— to debunk the affidavit of businessman Francis de Borja, who has claimed that Sabio stated “P50 million” would be the amount he would accept to refuse what he said was a government offer of money and a seat in the Supreme Court—according to De Borja’s affidavit—if he favored the GSIS in its legal battle with Meralco.

De Borja executed the affidavit on Thursday to deny that he had offered the justice P10 million to step aside and let another justice issue the decision, which favored Meralco.

Sabio earlier said in a letter to Vasquez that a man “brokering for Meralco” made the P10-million offer to him. The emissary was unnamed, but De Borja said he had felt alluded to and decided to come forward.

‘Filthy lie’

Reading from a prepared statement, Sabio said at the press conference: “I must state that I cannot even begin to express my anger, outrage and disgust that a person whom I treated with civil respect and kindness, and whom I thought respected me, would impute such a filthy lie to me. But that Mr. De Borja would have the nerve to make these lies, under oath, is utterly disgusting when it was him who had come to me with the offer of the bribe.”

He said he was now up against the Lopezes, who run Meralco and are one of the Philippines’ most influential business and political clans, who he said were using and conspiring with De Borja to portray him as a corrupt official of the judiciary.

“I know that 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,” Sabio said.

He challenged De Borja to submit to a lie-detector test along with himself. He said he was “seriously considering” charging De Borja with bribery and perjury.

Sabio again detailed the circumstances of his July 1 meeting with De Borja at the lobby lounge of the Ateneo Law School in Makati City, where he teaches law courses.

He made a new disclosure: that De Borja’s first words to him at the time were “You know, Justice, who’s with me in the car? It’s [Meralco chairman] Manolo Lopez.”

Sabio said De Borja told him that Lopez was with him too when he met up with Sabio for the first time and that De Borja was interceding for the Lopezes because the case was “a matter of life and death” for the clan.

In a phone interview after Sabio’s press conference, De Borja denied telling Sabio that Manuel “Manolo” Lopez was with him in his car on that night.

“No, I never said that,” De Borja said. If you know Manolo Lopez—he is somewhat aristocratic—he would be the last person to wait for somebody in the car, and they did not know that he was abroad at that time.”

‘Twisted’

De Borja said Sabio had again twisted the story: “I said in my affidavit that he told me his wife would be waiting for him in the car, and he says now that Manolo was waiting in my car….”

De Borja—who has described himself to the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a longtime friend of Lopez’s and makes his living “brokering contracts, making deals and packaging projects”—said he was ready to face the suit Sabio would file against him.

“It’s a free country, let him file it and we’ll see,” De Borja said. “I was prepared the moment I signed my affidavit. Obviously, I considered the consequences, so I wouldn’t have made up a story.”

De Borja said he was accepting Sabio’s challenge for a lie-detector test, on the condition that they do it simultaneously and with “a competent foreign agency.”

He said, “And my third comment is: He is a lawyer and a justice. He knows that a lie-detector test [result] is not admissible as [court] evidence, so why is he asking for it?”

De Borja said of Sabio: “He is a public official, being a justice. So he must be like Caesar’s wife, who is beyond suspicion. And to be beyond suspicion, you must be squeaky-clean, and he is not squeaky-clean.”

De Borja reiterated he was taken aback when Sabio replied “P50 million” when he asked what it would take for Sabio to resist the purported government offer of money and a Supreme Court seat in exchange for a ruling favorable to the GSIS.

He said he had expected Sabio to answer that the justice would not be swayed by any offer and would rule based on his conscience.

Why cling to it?

On the phone with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, De Borja asked why Sabio refused to yield the chairmanship of the CA Eighth Division—and the Meralco vs GSIS case—after the division’s regular chairman had returned from a vacation leave.

He said: “Why is he clinging to it when the procedure is so clear that the case goes to the ‘ponente’ [the designated writer of the decision] and the permanent justice gets back the case once he returns from leave? And can you imagine him going out in public saying these justices were bribed? He is the one impugning the integrity of the court, so his fellow justices are angry with him.”

De Borja said the GSIS was not directly opposing the CA decision that favored Meralco. “Nobody is saying the decision is wrong,” he said. “They are just casting doubts on the integrity of the justices in order to cast a shadow on the decision.”

He added: “There are a lot of similarities in our affidavits, but in major issues, we differ. So it’s up to the people to decide who is telling the truth.”

To assert his truthfulness, De Borja cited portions of his affidavit in which he recounted that Sabio told him about the dispute in the CA over the Meralco versus GSIS case, including the latter’s beef with Justice Bienvenido Reyes.

He said only Sabio knew about these things. “How could I have picked up all those details?”

As for Sabio’s expressed fear of being harmed by the Lopezes, De Borja said: “Have you heard of the Lopezes having had anybody killed? They are not that type of people.”

No resignation

Sabio rejected calls for his resignation, describing them as “stupid.”

He said it would be for the Supreme Court to determine the guilty party. He added that if he had ever accepted a bribe, “I would not stay a day longer in this court.”

When asked if the controversy would erode public confidence in the Court of Appeals, and if it was the first time such a scandal had happened, Sabio said without elaborating: “Ang daming nangyaring first time dito. [A lot of first times have happened here.] This is a case of first times.” With a report from TJ Burgonio; with editing by INQUIRER.net

CHRONOLOGY OF A BATTLE ROYALE

August 2, 2008

May 1 to 26, 2008—GSIS-Meralco row starts. GSIS demands from Meralco, among others, access to corporate documents. Meralco claims GSIS plans to wrest control of the utility firm.

May 27, 2008—Meralco holds its annual stockholders’ meeting on May 27 despite a cease and desist order from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

May 29, 2008—Meralco files a petition before the Court of Appeals (CA) for the issuance of a temporary restraining order. The petition enjoins the SEC not to implement its show-cause order against Meralco’s acting corporate secretary for allowing the validation of the 1.9 billion proxy shares during the annual stockholders’ meeting that saw the Lopez group emerge victorious over the GSIS.

May 30, 2008—The CA’s Special Ninth Division, in a four-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Vicente Roxas, issues a 60-day temporary restraining order prohibiting the SEC, the GSIS, SEC Officer-in-Charge Enrique Garica and Huberto Garcia, director of the SEC’s compliance and enforcement department, from implementing the controversial SEC cease and desist order.” CA Associate Justices Jose Sabio and Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal concurred with the ruling.

June 21, 2008—Meralco lawyers argue that SEC’s cease and desist order has no date and is signed by only one commissioner.

July 24, 2008—The CA voids the cease and desist order. Its Eighth Division, in a 57-page decision penned by Associate Justice Vicente Roxas, said the SEC has no jurisdiction over the case. It adds that it is the regional trial court that should decide on intra-corporate disputes.

July 24, 2008—Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. writes letter to Justices Reyes and Roxas over which division should issue the decision on the Meralco-GSIS case.

July 26, 2008—Justice Sabio writes a letter to Presiding Justice Vasquez, complaining that there is something “fishy” about the July 24 CA decision.

July 28, 2008—CA Presiding Justice calls for en banc session to settle controversy between CA’s Eighth and Ninth Divisions over Meralco-GSIS row.

July 30, 2008—Justice Sabio reveals that a businessman has offered him P10 million for his silence on the case.

July 31, 2008—CA en banc holds session, tosses to Supreme Court the issue of propriety regarding actuations of justices.

July 31, 2008—Cagayan de Oro City businessman Francis Roa de Borja surfaces. He issues affidavit claiming he is the one being referred to by Justice Sabio. He also claims that Sabio has told him that an emissary from the GSIS offers him millions of pesos and a post at the Supreme Court in exchange for a favorable decision.

August 1, 2008—Justice Sabio calls a press conference, denying the allegations of de Borja, saying they are filthy lies.(ManilaTimes)

Manolo lopez says Sabio’s charges a fabrication

August 2, 2008

By Euan Paulo C. Anonuevo, Reporter

The chairman of Meralco denied any involvement in an alleged bribery attempt on Associate Justice Jose Sabio of the Court of Appeals for Sabio to take Meralco’s side in its legal dispute with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Manolo Lopez, during a press conference held on Friday, belied Sabio’s claim that he was “waiting in a car” when businessman Francis Roa de Borja offered the appellate-court justice P10 million to inhibit himself from the row involving fight for control of the Manila Electric Co, or Meralco, the country’s largest power distributor.

Lopez said he was in the United States having a medical check-up when the alleged meeting took place on July 1 at the Ateneo Law School in upscale Rockwell in Makati City.

“I categorically and vehemently deny the allegations of Justice Jose Sabio. Mind you, I do not have the habit of waiting in the car for anybody except my wife. The [allegations are] malicious and pure fabrication. I am a resident of Rockwell,” he pointed out.

To support Lopez’s claim, company officials presented before media the Meralco chairman’s boarding passes when he went to the United States on June 27 and returned to the country on July 13.

Although he admitted knowing de Borja, Lopez said they were “more of social friends than anything else.”

“I know Francis but I have not authorized him or anybody to make representations for [me on] any matter that involves cases of Meralco and the Lopez family. We have retainers and lawyers to handle legal matters,” he said.

Lopez added that his wife and de Borja’s wife, who belong to a religious group, are “closer” to one another than he and Francis are.

Despite the accusations hurled by Sabio, the Meralco chairman said he still has to decide if he will file any case in court against Sabio.

He added that Sabio, who also has claimed that the Lopezes are out to get him, has nothing to fear from his family, who themselves have “suffered setbacks, legal or otherwise, for the past years.”

The dispute between Meralco and the GSIS stemmed from the government pension fund’s failed try, through its head Winston Garcia, to wrest control of the utility from the Lopezes in May this year during the utility’s annual stockholders’ meeting.

The GSIS was able to secure a temporary restraining order from the Securities and Exchange Commission to halt the meeting.

Meralco’s management elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals. (ManilaTimes)

Sabio: Lopezes my slayers

August 2, 2008

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)

Editorial Cartoon: Justice Tainted

August 1, 2008

Bad Make-Up

‘Manolo Lopez sent me,’ Sabio quotes De Borja

August 1, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:42:00 08/01/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Court of Appeals Justice Jose Sabio Jr. Thursday denied businessman Francis de Borja’s allegations that he had asked for money in connection with the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) case.

“I vehemently deny that he ever asked me what it [would] take to inhibit [myself] from the case, nor gave any reply in a manner that he stated in the affidavit. I never asked for money,” Sabio said in a statement.

The justice said De Borja had informed him that Meralco chair Manolo Lopez was “in the know” regarding the P10-million bribe offer.

“He told me that he was sent by Manolo Lopez who was with him in the car because it was a matter of life and death for them. And so they wanted the case to be ensured,” Sabio said.

He added that De Borja mentioned the abuses that the Lopezes suffered during the Marcos dictatorship, which De Borja claimed were being repeated by the Arroyo administration.

“And so he pleaded for me to accept what he called a win-win situation of P10 million,” he disclosed.

He also accused De Borja, whom he earlier alleged to have offered him P10 million to inhibit himself from the case, of twisting his words.

“As initial reaction to the affidavit of Francis de Borja, I find it not only ridiculous but also incredible. He has absolutely twisted the facts to suit a wicked end,” Sabio said.

Sabio branded the allegations against him as part of a smear campaign, saying that Meralco money and resources were being used to discredit him.

He said he would hold a press conference on Friday at the Court of Appeals to reveal everything that had happened between him and De Borja. Leila B. Salaverria

Full text of De Borja affidavit

August 1, 2008

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES)
PASIG CITY) S.S.

A F F I D A V I T

I, FRANCIS ROA DE BORJA, Filipino, of legal age, with address at 343 G. de Borja St., Pateros, Metro Manila, after having been duly sworn in accordance with law, hereby depose and state:

(BACKGROUND)

1. At the 2008 annual stockholders meeting of Meralco a controversy arose regarding an SEC order to nullify the proxies which had been issued in favor of the Meralco management. I subsequently found out from the news that Justice Jose Sabio, Jr. was one of the justices who was hearing the case filed by Meralco against the GSIS and SEC (the “Meralco/GSIS/SEC case”).

2. This development struck a chord in me since I knew Justice Sabio quite well from my previous dealings in the early 1990’s with a group he had been advising in Cagayan de Oro City on a real estate transaction that I was putting together.

3. I am a businessman. Among other activities, I have been engaged in the past in the sale and purchase of real properties, manufacturing companies, brokering contracts, and in general, deal making and project packaging from which I would stand to gain a fee for my efforts.

(HOW I CAME TO KNOW JUSTICE SABIO VERY WELL, SUCH BEING THE REASON FOR MY HAVING ENOUGH CONFIDENCE IN OUR FRIENDSHIP TO TALK TO HIM ABOUT THE MERALCO/GSIS/SEC CASE)

4. My mother is a Roa. By virtue of this, I am related to the extended Roa clan whose roots are in Cagayan de Oro City.

5. One of the branches of the Roa family, the branch originating from the late Congressman Pedro “Oloy” Roa, was the previous owner of a 400 hectare property in Cagayan de Oro City located very near the city airport (the “CDO Property”).

6. Sometime in 1993, when the Pedro Roa family still owned the CDO Property, I learned of their intention to sell it. I contacted a family member to say that I could get a developer to buy it.

7. I talked to the Investment and Capital Corporation of the Philippines (ICCP) which had developed the highly successful Science Park in Laguna. ICCP forthwith expressed interest in buying the said property for development into a residential subdivision.
8. In the course of the negotiations between ICCP and the Pedro Roa family, the latter were advised on legal issues by Judge Jose Sabio Jr. who was then a Regional Trial Court Judge in Cagayan de Oro City.

9. The negotiations were protracted and took a year or so to complete. Judge Sabio and I came to know each other quite well during this time and became friends.

10. The sale of the Cagayan de Oro Property was successfully completed and the same was subsequently developed into the Pueblo de Oro Subdivision.

11. After I received my fee for the transaction, I gave Three Hundred Thousand Pesos (P300,000) to Judge Sabio in appreciation of the efforts he had undertaken towards the successful completion of the transaction. This gesture was also a way of expressing to him that I had come to value the friendship we had developed.

12. Afterwards, Judge Sabio and I continued to communicate with each other, albeit infrequently.

12.1. When Judge Sabio would come over to Manila from Cagayan de Oro City, he would call me up and we would have lunch or dinner together.

12.2. Subsequently, when Judge Sabio was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 1999 and transferred residence to Manila, he and I would meet on occasion and have lunch or dinner perhaps two or three times a year.

(WHAT TRANSPIRED WHEN JUSTICE SABIO MET WITH ME ON THE MERALCO/GSIS/SEC CASE)

13. On or about May 31, 2008 and acting on my own, I called up Justice Sabio to chitchat on the Meralco/GSIS/SEC case because it was hogging the headlines, and to hear what was happening, so to speak, directly from the horse’s mouth.

13.1. During the telephone conversation, I commented to Justice Sabio to the effect that “Grabe siguro ang pressure sa iyo dito!”

13.2 In reply, Justice Sabio said “Ay Francis, you have no idea of the pressures I am undergoing from the government.”

13.3. I replied that I could well imagine his situation and after a few more words said goodbye and wished him good luck.

14. In late June, I called Justice Sabio again and suggested we get together to touch base. In response, he invited me to see him at the Ateneo Law School in Rockwell after his classes.

15. In the evening of Tuesday, July 1, 2008, I went to Ateneo Law School to see Justice Sabio. I invited him to have dinner at the nearby Rockwell Mall. However, he told me that he could meet with me only for a while since his wife would be fetching him and would be waiting in their car. Thus, we just talked at the lobby lounge.

15.1. During our conversation, we talked about the Meralco, GSIS, SEC controversy.

15.1.1 Justice Sabio confided that he was the Acting Chairman of the Division hearing the case but that he was very piqued with the regular Chairman of the Division, Justice Bienvenido Reyes, who was exercising efforts to reclaim his seat.

15.1.2. Justice Sabio mentioned the following reasons why he thought he should remain the Acting Chairman of the Division hearing the Meralco/GSIS/SEC case:

15.1.2.1. He had signed the temporary restraining order issued in the case. He said “hindi bale sana kung hindi ako ang pumirma.”

15.1.2.2. In the last few weeks, he had conversed several times with the said regular Chairman of the Division, Justice Bienvenido Reyes, but he groused that “walang sinasabi sa akin yun pala gusto niyang bumalik. Why did he not say anything to me? Parang trinaidor ako.”

15.1.2.3. Justice Sabio added that he was very suspicious of Justice Reyes’s motives. “Why does he want to come back? Siguro meron silang gustong gawin dito.”

15.1.2.4. He mentioned that “Justice Cruz” who had issued a ruling on the matter to the effect that he (Justice Sabio) should give way to Justice Reyes was even “junior” in rank to him. He commented “Insulto sa akin yan.”

15.1.2.5. He said that he had consulted other colleagues in the Court of Appeals and that they had told him that he was in the right and should stick to his guns.

15.1.2.6. He said he had two children who are both lawyers and he had discussed this matter with them and they had likewise advised him not to give way.

15.1.2.7. He vowed that he would hold on as Acting Chairman of the Division for the case even if he had to elevate the matter to the Supreme Court.

16. Justice Sabio then told me about the blandishments coming from the government side. He said that he was being offered a promotion to the Supreme Court and money to favor the GSIS position.

17. I was nonplussed by this last statement since Justice Sabio had just expressed suspicion about the motives of Justice Reyes and other Division members in their wanting Justice Reyes to resume the chairmanship of the Division. He, in effect, had just given me his motive for wanting to remain as Acting Chair of the Division.

18. I concluded that this was probably the reason why he was hanging on so desperately to the Acting Chairmanship of the Division. If he would give up the said Acting Chairmanship, he would lose his chance for a Supreme Court seat and the promise of monetary consideration.

19. I had been appalled from the beginning by the way GSIS and the government were going after Meralco. I told Justice Sabio that it was obvious that the government was doing this in retaliation for the news coverage by ABS-CBN of the Administration. I then asked him “what would it take for you to resist the government’s offer?”

20. The response of Justice Sabio was “Fifty Million.”

21. I was so taken aback by the answer of Justice Sabio and the huge amount he had mentioned that I was at a loss for words to say. After regaining my composure, we made our goodbyes as his wife was already waiting for him in their car.

FURTHER AFFIANT SAYETH NAUGHT.

FRANCIS ROA DE BORJA
Affiant

‘Sabio wanted P50-M bribe’

August 1, 2008

‘Emissary’ surfaces with own story

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:32:00 08/01/2008

THE MYSTERY MAN REVEALED Francis Roa de Borja comes forward and turns Sabio’s story on its head. “It’s the opposite,” he says. He claims to be a long-time friend of Manolo Lopez but denies he’s behind the bribery attempt. LYN RILLON

MANILA, Philippines—The “emissary” of Manila Electric Co. who purportedly offered P10 million to Court of Appeals Justice Jose Sabio Jr. came forward Thursday with his own story.

In a four-page sworn statement, a copy of which was given to the Philippine Daily Inquirer by a source affiliated with Meralco, Francis Roa de Borja quoted Sabio as saying that the government had offered the latter money and a seat in the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the Government Service Insurance System in the case filed against it by Meralco.

De Borja also claimed that Sabio—who had said that a Meralco emissary offered him P10 million to inhibit himself from the case—mentioned P50 million as his price in rejecting the government’s promised rewards.

De Borja narrated his July 1 meeting with Sabio in Makati City, where the justice purportedly disclosed the government’s offer.

Said De Borja: “I had been appalled from the beginning by the way the GSIS and the government were going after Meralco. I told Justice Sabio that it was obvious that the government was doing this in retaliation for the news coverage by ABS-CBN of the administration. I then asked him, ‘What would it take for you to resist the government’s offer?’ The response of Justice Sabio was ‘Fifty Million.’”

No categorical denial

De Borja said he was acting on his own when he first decided to phone Sabio to discuss the Meralco vs GSIS case.

But his affidavit contained no categorical denial that he had offered P10 million for Sabio to inhibit himself from the case and pave the way for Justice Bienvenido Reyes to chair the division that would rule on the case.

Asked to comment, GSIS president and general manager Winston Garcia pronounced as “ridiculous” De Borja’s claim that it was the government who had attempted to bribe Sabio.

In his affidavit, De Borja said he phoned Sabio on May 31 and commented that the justice must be undergoing a lot of pressure in connection with the Meralco vs GSIS case.

Sabio supposedly replied: “Ay, Francis, you have no idea of the pressures I am undergoing from the government.”

This was how De Borja narrated the succeeding turn of events:

Offers from gov’t side

Late in June, De Borja called up Sabio again and suggested that they meet to “touch base.” The latter said to see him at the Ateneo Law School in Rockwell, Makati, where he teaches a class.

On the evening of July 1, they met at Ateneo and talked at the lobby lounge while Sabio waited for his wife to collect him.

It was then that Sabio disclosed the “blandishments” of the government side—“a promotion to the Supreme Court and money to favor the GSIS position.”

According to De Borja, he was “nonplussed” at the revelation because Sabio had earlier expressed suspicion of the motive of Reyes and the other justices who wanted Reyes to chair the 8th Division that would rule on the Meralco vs GSIS case.

“He, in effect, had just given me his motive for wanting to remain as acting chairman of the division,” De Borja said, adding:

“I concluded that this was probably the reason why he was hanging on so desperately to the acting chairmanship of the division. If he would give up the said acting chairmanship, he would lose his chance for a Supreme Court seat and the promise of monetary consideration.”

Hanging on to chairmanship

This was how De Borja continued his narration:

When Sabio said he wanted P50 million to “resist” the government’s offer, De Borja was taken aback by the huge amount and was “at a loss for words.”

According to De Borja, Sabio gave reasons why he should chair the division handling the Meralco vs GSIS case: He had signed the temporary restraining order stopping the implementation of a Securities and Exchange Commission directive to halt the election of the Meralco board members; he had conversed with Reyes several times but the latter never mentioned coming back as the division’s regular chair.

Sabio also mentioned a “Justice Cruz” who had opined that Sabio should give way to Reyes, but Sabio found this insulting.

De Borja said that Sabio had told him that colleagues at the Court of Appeals, as well as Sabio’s two lawyer-daughters, also opined that the justice should decide on the case.

Sabio likewise vowed to hold on to the acting chairmanship even if he had to elevate the matter to the Supreme Court, according to De Borja.

How they met

De Borja said he came to know Sabio when the latter was a Regional Trial Court judge in Cagayan de Oro City.

He said he was then brokering a deal between the Investment and Capital Corp. of the Philippines and the Pedro Roa family, who was planning to sell a 400-hectare property.

Sabio advised the Roa family on legal issues, De Borja said. Since the negotiations on the sale took a year, he and Sabio got to know each other well and became friends.

De Borja said that after the property was sold, he gave Sabio P300,000 from his fee from the transaction.

He said the money was in appreciation for Sabio’s efforts to help in the sale and an expression of how he valued the latter’s friendship.

Meralco ruling issue referred to SC

August 1, 2008

MANILA — An executive session Thursday among all magistrates of the Court of Appeals (CA) failed to resolve questions on the validity of the decision on the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) case amid allegations of massive payoffs.

Forty-seven justices from Metro Manila, two from Cebu, and two from Cagayan de Oro attended the four-hour en banc meeting, a rare occurrence in the CA.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

An associate justice, who asked anonymity, said the justices engaged in a “spirited” debate over the three issues – propriety of the actions of the justices concerned; validity of the decision rendered by the Eight Division; and conflict in the interpretation of the internal rules regarding which division should act in particular stages of the case.

At the end of the discussions, the CA clerk of court decided to pass on the propriety of the actions of the justices concerned to the Supreme Court (SC) through the Office of the Court Administrator.

They also resolved to leave the matter concerning the validity of the decision to the parties to take whatever steps they may deem appropriate in the usual course of procedure.

They also decided to refer the conflict in the interpretation of the Internal Rules of the CA as to the justices or divisions, which should take part in particular stages of the cases to the standing committee on Rules of the CA in order to prevent the recurrence of a similar situation.

CA Clerk of Court Teresita Marigomen did not entertain questions from reporters during a briefing, but in a phone interview, she admitted that there was a gag order from Vasquez on the matter.

She said an administrative complaint, if there will be any, will likely be filed by the CA through Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. to the SC.

“We appeal to everyone to respect the subjudice nature of the case and to refrain from public discussion of the merits of the case,” she said.

She added that the ruling of the CA Eighth Division upholding the control of the Lopez bloc over Meralco will remain in effect, unless reversed through a motion for reconsideration or before the SC.

P10-M bribe

Justice Jose Sabio Jr. earlier alleged that he was offered a P10 million bribe by a businessman to inhibit himself from handling the case filed by Meralco against the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the counting of proxy votes in favor of the Lopezes.

Sabio was a former member of a CA Special Former Ninth Division that took cognizance of the case and issued a TRO (temporary restraining order) in favor of Meralco because its acting chairman Bienvenido Reyes was on leave.

Aside from him, another member of the dissolved division, Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal, also questioned why the case was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Eighth Division.

Reyes reported back to work before the oral argument on the Meralco case last June 23 but was not able to participate in the proceedings as Sabio reportedly refused to vacate the position.

The justice who requested anonymity said Sabio was not asked by Vasquez to identify the businessman who allegedly offered him the P10million bribe.

“Nobody asked him to identify the person who supposedly offered him bribe money. He also did not offer to disclose the identity of the emissary,” the justice said.

Blandishments

As this developed, a real estate businessman said to be a close friend of Sabio executed an affidavit claiming that the magistrate told him about the “blandishments coming from the government side.”

He said he was offered a promotion to the SC and given money to favor the position of GSIS.

Copies of Francis Roa de Borja’s affidavit, which were executed in Pasig City, were furnished all justices of the appellate court, but only after the en banc session.

In his affidavit, de Borja said he knew Sabio from when the justice was still a regional trial court judge in Cagayan de Oro.

He said that on or about May 31, 2008, he called up Sabio for a talk on the Meralco case wherein the magistrate told him that he was undergoing a lot of pressure from the government.

The affidavit further stated that on July 1, 2008 he met up with Sabio wherein they again had a conversation on the Meralco case.

The justice then confided that he was the Acting chairman of the Special Ninth Division hearing the case but that he was very piqued with the regular chairman of the division, Reyes, who was allegedly exerting efforts to reclaim his seat.

Reyes was then on leave when the Meralco case was first filed with the CA.

Sabio was then tapped to be acting chairman, in which he even voted to issue a TRO in favor of the power-distributing firm.

Sabio allegedly told Borja during that conversation that he was very suspicious of Reyes’s motives. “Why does he want to go back?” he was quoted by Borja as saying.

Borja said Sabio mentioned that he had consulted his other colleagues in the CA and they told him that he was in the right and should stick to his guns. Thus, he vowed that he would hold on as acting chairman of the division.

Promotion, money

That was then Sabio told Borja about the offer of unnamed government officials for a promotion at the SC and money for a favorable ruling for GSIS.

“He in effect had just given me his motive for wanting to remain as acting chairman of the Division. I concluded that this was probably the reason why he was hanging on so desperately to the acting chairmanship of the division,” Borja said.

He further said that he asked Sabio what it would take for him to resist the government offer, Sabio’s reply was: “Fifty million.”

In a separate statement handed to journalists from persons claiming to be from the office of Justice Vicente Roxas who wrote the Meralco ruling, the magistrate claimed that “recourse through the Court of Appeals en banc is not an option for GSIS to impugn or over the Meralco decision.”

Roxas also challenged Sabio and Vidal to file an administrative complaint against him or any member of the Eighth Division who signed the Meralco ruling instead of “grandstanding before the media.”

The two associate justices claimed that they were not informed about the questionable transfer of the case to the Eighth Division chaired by Reyes. (ECV/Sunnex)