Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Justice For Sale

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

TROs ‘for sale’ in Court of Appeals

By Jomar Canlas, Reporter

POLITICAL and administrative cases decided by the Office of the Ombudsman are now one of the primary sources of corruption and temporary restraining orders “for sale” in the Court of Appeals, a CA justice told The Manila Times.

The magistrate, who talked on condition of anonymity, said the rulings of Ombudsman Maria Merceditas Gutierrez on preventive suspensions and dismissals have turned into one of the main sources of “business” in the CA.

In the past, all administrative cases were decided by the Supreme Court until it issued a ruling in the case of Fabian v. Desierto that all such cases decided by the Office of the Ombudsman shall be reviewed only by the CA through petitions for certiorari.

The justice said the minimum price for a TRO is P1 million. The price rises, depending on the influence of the personalities involved.

The price gets steeper for a package deal that includes a TRO, injunction, decision and resolution in a motion for reconsideration.

The Office of the Ombudsman’s decisions and resolutions that get elevated to the CA for certiorari, the justice said, “become juicy since the personalities involved are high ranking government officials, politicians who failed in the lifestyle check.”

Police their ranks

Chief Justice Reynato Puno wants the justices of the CA to police their own rank, fight corruption zealously and put an end to the TROs-for-sale business.

Jose Midas Marquez, the Court’s public information chief, said the Chief Justice his magistrates they themselves should watch their own ranks and combat corruption.

Last Thursday afternoon Puno summoned the 17 chairpersons (most senior members) of the appellate court stationed in Manila and expressed his alarm over the notoriety of some CA justices and employees. The Chief Justice was apparently angered by the negative reports he has been receiving about corruption in the CA.

“Let them resolve this issue among themselves, and conduct an immediate investigation,” Puno was reported to have said.

The Times source said that the TROs-for-sale racket has become rampant in the CA, overturning the traditional principle that “not to issue a TRO is the general rule and to issue is the exception.” The trend in the appellate court is “to issue a TRO is the general rule and not to issue is the exception.”

CA Committee on Ethics

CA Presiding Justice Ruben Reyes told The Manila Times that he has tapped the CA Committee on Ethics to accept complaints against justices and employees who are reportedly engaged in corrupt practices.

The Committee on Ethics is chaired by Justice Marina Buzon, with Justices Amelita Tolentino and Aurora Lagman as members.

“I have referred the complaints received to the Committee on Ethics to check the veracity of the information,” Reyes said.

He asked The Times to let people know that those who cannot send their complaints openly may give them directly to him.

“If there is any incident of corruption I want to receive the report even in a confidential nature. But of course, it should be supported by evidence,” he said.

Reyes said that “it is not necessarily bad to issue a TRO, but what is bad is when there is monetary consideration.”

He even urged fellow magistrates and employees to join hands in saving the appellate court and build it from its ruins.

Cebu CA open for investigation

The justices of the CA in Cebu (Visayas), raised a howl and vehemently denied that they were engaged in corruption.

Interviewed over the phone, CA Cebu Executive Justice Arsenio Magpale said that there is not an iota of truth to the complaints against them offering TROs for sale.

Magpale said the whole Cebu CA and every justice are ready to be investigated because their conscience is clean.

Another CA magistrate in Cebu, Justice Francisco Acosta, said that after the news in The Manila Times broke about corruption in the appellate court in Cebu, each of them is now wondering who among the nine justices are engaged in corrupt activities. Manila Times

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