By by Alvin Capino
Manila Standard Today
This era is probably the most controversial in the history of the Judiciary in the Philippines. This is not only because of the unprecedented impeachment trial of no less than Chief Justice Renato Corona instigated by Malacañang.
Almost on a daily basis, we read and hear news reports and commentaries in media about controversies involving the Judiciary from the lower courts to the appellate courts and even the Supreme Court ranging from a judge getting legal advice from dwarfs to alleged emissaries of a judge asking for a P100 million bribe for a favorable ruling.
One running controversy for example that tends to erode public faith in the Judiciary for example is the multi-billion peso case of the Steel Corporation of the Philippines against the country’s largest insurance companies.
In a letter to Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr., SCP, through its legal counsel, Nonnatus P. Chua, has accused three appellate justices of “manifest partially, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence” in deciding the case and promulgating the decision dated Feb. 8, 2012 which declared as null and void the Order dated June 1, 2011 of the Regional Trial Court of Balayan, Batangas.
In the said order, the Balayan RTC held SCP’s panel of insurers liable to SCP and directed them to pay SCP’s insurance claims in the total of $42 million or, in lieu thereof, replace or reinstate SCP’s equipment which was damaged in a fire.
The panel of insurers include Mapfre Insurance Corporation, New India Assurance Company, Philippine Charter Insurance Corp., Malayan Insurance Company and Asia Insurance Philippines Corp.
Chua, in his letter, asked the CA Presiding Justice to order the inhibition of Justice Fernanda Lampas-Peralta, chairman of the former 14th Division of the CA and the two other members of the division, Justices Priscila Baltazar-Padilla and Agnes Reyes-Carpio.
The lawyer of SCP claims that Justice Peralta and the two other members of the division showed “indecent haste” in issuing the writ of preliminary injunction against SCP which he said was promulgated at 11:30 in the morning of Feb. 8, 2012 and served at 3:15 in the afternoon—or in less than four hours.
Chua contends that the writ of preliminary injunction against SCP was issued based solely on the panel of insurers’ allegations that allowing SCP to collect on its insurance claims “will be the death knell of the Petitioners’ respective businesses and, without doubt will spell the end of the whole insurance industry in the Philippines.”
SCP said that the fact that the Peralta division accepted the claims of the panel of insurers without even asking for supporting evidence showed undue haste.
It said that the falsity of the insurers’ claims was proven when one of the insurers—Standard Insurance Co. Inc. —did not join the appeal to the CA and instead paid its corresponding share without suffering financial difficulty.
According to the SCP lawyer, the Peralta division also flip-flopped when it first allowed and admitted SCP’s Reply-Memorandum in its resolution dated October 17, 2011 only to issue another Resolution dated October 28, 2011 or only after11 days in which it simply “noted” the existence of the SCP Reply-Memorandum, thereby in effect withdrawing what it had previously granted.
It would be good for the Presiding Justice to act on the petition of SCP for the inhibition of the three CA justices, one way or another. A quick decision with an adequate explanation and justification by Reyes on the issues raised by SCP will go a long way in restoring public trust in the CA and the Judiciary.
Of course there are other decisions by other divisions of the CA which gives the public reasons to have faith in the Judiciary.
The recent decision of the CA 12th Division dismissing the contempt case and recalling the warrant of arrest against lawyer Brigido Dulay, counsel of former Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos, is proof, according to Dulay, “that the Philippine judicial system is working effectively.”
Pasay RTC Judge Jesus Mupas cited Mupas and Abalos in contempt after Dulay filed a motion for inhibition alleging that certain individuals claiming to be emissaries of Mupas tried to extort P100 million from his client.
The CA 12th Division through Associate Justice Francisco Acosta said Dulay as counsel of Abalos was merely enumerating factual circumstances that raise doubts on Mupas’ impartiality and “no malicious, derogatory or offensive allegations were made by petitioner.”
Actually, the reaction of Mupas to go after Dulay and Abalos for exposing the extortion attempt by people claiming to be his emissaries is a little surprising. He should have been angry not at Dulay but at the people claiming to be his emissaries and asking those huge sums for and on his behalf.
It makes one wonder: Why isn’t Mupas more assiduous in running after the extortionists?
(Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/April/2)