Wake Up, Philippines!

Court of Appeals mess

Posted in Court of Appeals, Judiciary, Scandal/Expose/Mess by Erineus on February 18, 2009

The news headlines coming out lately undoubtedly confirm that the culture of corruption in public service has been institutionalized. But this is no reason for the citizenry to accept this as a fact of life in government. On the contrary the public should be more indignant in denouncing the anomalies being exposed.

To be sure, graft and corruption is already established for quite sometime in the executive and legislative department. Hence it is no longer shocking to hear and read about deals in these offices that are grossly disadvantageous to the government. The latest expose about the CHED (Commission on Higher Education) call center project and the Land Bank loan to QUEDANCOR have just further lengthened the list of the previous scams plaguing this administration notably the Joc-Joc Bolante fertilizer fund scandal and the huge commissions or “tongpats” in hundreds of millions of US$ paid to brokers with strong connections in this administration for the aborted ZTE-NBN Broadband project and the abandoned North Rail project.

Then there are also the anomalous mega deals in the Comelec particularly the Mega Pacific Consortium automated counting machines project that was declared null and void by the Supreme Court itself because of obvious violations of law; and the infamous “Garci” dagdag bawas scandal involving some military generals who reportedly received financial rewards and promotions.

Graft and corruption in public service are now deeply rooted obviously because of the government’s reaction to these anomalies that led to lack of clear and conclusive findings. Instead of actively and expeditiously pursuing the cases and digging deeper into the truth or falsity of the exposes, the government uses “executive privilege” in refusing to cooperate with the investigators.

Instead of initiating the moves to investigate the allegations and gather the necessary evidence to determine whether its detractors are telling the truth or not, the government assails its detractors for “making accusations without evidence and privilege speeches without accountability”. The move to suppress the truth about these revelations seems to be very evident in this kind of stance.

The lackadaisical attitude and delayed action of the Ombudsman is also a contributing factor. Since the time of the exposes up to now, the Ombudsman has not come out with any resolution on these anomalies. On the contrary it has even dismissed the complaints against the Comelec officials who were found indictable for violations of law by the Supreme Court itself.

More disturbing is that certain corrupt practices have penetrated even our Judiciary. What used to be mere unfounded but apparently plausible rumors concerning the shady deals in all levels of our courts of justice circulating in coffee shops and cocktail circuits are now being denounced by some of the magistrates themselves. Now, none of the three branches of government can still categorically claim that its offices are not tainted with corruption.

This is more unfortunate in the case of the Judiciary because it is supposed to be the last bulwark of democracy, the government department where people expect to be relieved from a kind of hunger more intense than their hunger for food — the hunger for justice.

The public exposure of the behind the scenes maneuvering and bickering among the justices of the Court of Appeals (CA) on the high profile case of GSIS vs. Meralco is really unfortunate. It has further eroded (hopefully not beyond repair) the trust and confidence in our courts of justice. It could have been avoided because the issues therein are not controversial enough to
necessitate the “lobbying” of the parties involved. In other words, it is not one of those cases where the decision could be and is actually subjected to outside pressure but still looks correct precisely because the facts and the law give enough judicial discretion for the court to “correctly” decide either way without being suspected of succumbing to pressure.

In this case, based on the facts and the law, the CA decision is the only correct one that could have been made. Had it decided otherwise, it would be glaringly erroneous as would easily raise the suspicion that it was pressure laden. Hence, if it were not for Justice Jose Sabio’s revelations involving internal administrative matters that do no affect the merits of the case, the  ecision looks unassailable. The justices concerned could have just threshed out among themselves this purely internal issue.

Nevertheless, Justice Sabio’s move to go public may after all be good for the country. It may, and it should trigger the needed judicial clean up that is long in coming. In going public, Justice Sabio is apparently motivated by a desire to put a stop to these undesirable behind the scenes practices in our courts. In fact, because of his bold move, Mr. Francis Borja, the unnamed businessman also had to come out and the SC had to step in.

Obviously Justice Sabio and Mr. Borja have their own version of what transpired especially on the question of whether there was a bribe offer or a bribe proposal coming from either of the contending parties to the case. This is not a question that can be decided by public opinion shaped by media on who has a better reputation for credibility. A statement coming from a credible person must also be inherently believable. Hence, since the Supreme Court is already investigating the case, it would be advisable for them to desist from further making press statements and instead show to the SC the inherent truthfulness of their respective versions.

In this judicial investigation, the SC should adopt measures that would lead to clear, credible and conclusive findings and really meaningful and lasting clean up of the judiciary. It must avoid the lack transparency displayed by other government departments without however jeopardizing the integrity of the process because of undue publicity and inaccurate reporting.

Note: Books containing compilation of my
articles on Labor Law and Criminal Law (Vols. I and II) are now
available. Call tel. 7249445.

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E-mail at: jcson@pldtdsl.net

View previous articles from this author.

A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away)
By Jose C. Sison

Updated August 05, 2008 12:00 AM

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