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Benjamin B. Pulta and Angie M. Rosales

Quo warranto proceedings vs CJ Sereno initiated

Thursday, 22 February 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

A quo warranto suit questioning Maria Lourdes Sereno’s appointment as Supreme Court Chief Justice has been filed before the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
In his petition before the OSG, suspended lawyer Eligio Mallari cited Sereno’s supposed failure to qualify for the post citing the cover up which listed Sereno supposedly failing the required psychological evaluation for the position.
Mallari also cited the validity of Sereno’s appointment that was raised by SC Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta in one of the hearings of the committee in view of her failure to submit all her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Mallari said Peralta even told the members of the committee that he considers Sereno as a “de facto chief justice.
Peralta’s view, said Mallari, “was shared by SC Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro when the latter said that her appointment was “unfair to other contenders.”
Mallari noted that very low score or failing mark in psychological test given prior to her inclusion in the short list submitted to then President Benigno Aquino for the Chief Justice post.

For its part , Sereno’s camp said the magistrate may only be removed through impeachment and that the quo warranto proceedings cannot prosper
Sereno’s spokesperson, lawyer Josa Deinla said Mallari, “as president of Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution…should know what the Constitution says on the removal of an impeachable officer. The Chief Justice, being the 5th highest official of the land, can only be removed through an impeachment proceeding, and not through a quo warranto proceeding,” Deinla said in a statement.
“We cannot help but view this latest ignorant attempt as part and parcel of the grand plan to harass, malign and humiliate the Chief Justice to force her to resign because her detractors know that the impeachment complaint lodged against her is baseless and contains allegations which are not even grounds for impeachment,” she noted.
Mallari for his part insisted that Sereno’s appointment may be validly questioned.
“Any lawyer worth his salt would tell you that Sereno’s title to the office could be tried in a quo warranto proceedings which in turn may be instituted either by the person who claims to be entitled to the office or by the Republic of the Philippines represented by the Solicitor General or a public prosecutor.
He noted that a member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.
“Right now, Sereno’s competence and integrity are under intense public scrutiny. Having scored very low or flunked the psychological test and in view of non-submission of all her SALNs prior to appointment, Sereno’s claim to the position is tenuous, and must be challenged in quo warranto proceedings by the Solicitor General,” the lawyer said.
A Philippine Star report, however, bared that the Supreme Court has ordered Sereno and the JBC officials, to justify the CJ’s eligibility for her to have been appointed as chief justice.
According to the Star report. the SC justices decided in session to require Sereno as well as regular members and officers of JBC during her application for the chief justice post to comment on the letter of the House of Representatives justice committee seeking “appropriate action” on the reported incomplete statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) she had submitted to the council, the persons required to answer the House’s request aside from Sereno are JBC members Jose Mejia and Ma. Milagros Cayosa, former members retired justices Aurora Lagman and Regino Hermosisima Jr.
Also covered by the order are JBC executive officer Annaliza Capacite and former chief of office of selection and nomination, now Judge Richard Pascual.
It will be recalled that during one of the House committee hearings regarding the impeachment of Sereno on probable cause, some JBC officers and officials testified that Sereno filed three SALNs with one one that was subscribed while the two others were unsubscribed. Moreover, Sereno had written the JBC saying that her not having met the stiff requirements for applicants for the top SC post, should be considered as the requirements having been “sufficiently complied with.”
Sereno’s letter was never shown to the JBC panel. However, the fact that she made it to the list despite lack of eligibility, by the JBC has not been fully explained.
Leila in slamming mood
Sen. Leila de Lima yesterday slammed former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and some congressmen for insinuating that SC Chief Justice Sereno tried to block issuance of the warrant of arrests against her.
De Lima scored the congressmen who tried to exact an admission from the two Muntinlupa regional trial court (RTC) judges on the alleged interference of Sereno on the cases pending before them involving the senator in the drug charges filed against her.
The detained senator claimed that the pressure that the lawmakers brought down on the judges bordered on the contumacious.
“Almost one year after my incarceration, House members still cannot get enough of me. I am already in prison, yet they still want to question the judges handling my cases on why I was not jailed as swiftly as possible,” she said in a statement.
“And here are congressmen throwing accusations at judges hearing said cases. It was a signal to any judge who will be hearing my cases that the lawmakers are not interested in objectivity, impartiality, and even the merits of the case, when it comes to handling my cases,” the senator said.
De Lima did not let pass what she claimed as Arroyo’s insinuations citing the swiftness of the issuance her arrest warrant in Nov. 2011 by a Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC), which is fact.
“Lest people forget, then President Arroyo was attempting to flee the country to evade the impending case/s against her when the arrest warrant against her issued. She was a flight risk and I’m not,” the senator emphasized.
It is fact that de Lima, then the Justice chief, had no power to hold Arroyo from boarding the plane. In the first place, the SC had already granted the former president the greenlight to travel. In the second place, there was no case filed as yet by the government against Arroyo. The fact is, Arroyo was free to travel as there was no hold order from the courts, especially ftom the SC.
De Lima was reacting to the proceedings by the House committee on justice on the impeachment complaint of lawyer Lorenzo Gadon where the two Muntinlupa RTC judges testified to deny receiving any instructions from Sereno.
Arroyo, who attended the impeachment proceedings against Sereno for the first time, Monday, recalled how De Lima barred her from leaving the country in 2011 despite permission from the SC or some two hours after her electoral sabotage case was filed in the court.
Muntinlupa RTC Judges Patria Manalastas de Leon and Amelia Fabros Corpuz when asked by SAGIP party list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta if they were not “inspired” by the case of Arroyo, said that judges work differently and may have different appreciation of their cases.
“Despite the repeated denial of the Muntinlupa RTC judges handling my cases that they did not receive any instructions to favor me by delaying my arrest, these honorable men — and a woman in the person of none other than Arroyo — still chose to grill the judges and the Supreme Court Deputy Administrator (Jenny Lind Aldecoa-Delorino) for hours,” de Lima said.
Delorino said that she personally did not receive any instruction from Sereno to call any of the judges handling De Lima’s case not to issue any arrest warrant against the senator.
“They were squeezing water out of stone. Gadon was of course lying when he accused Sereno of instructing the judges not to order my arrest, as he continuously lies in most allegations he throws at the Chief Justice during the protracted farcical impeachment proceedings,” she said.
Arroyo reportedly left not long after and did not grill any of the resource persons invited in the proceedings.
De Lima will mark her first year in detention on Saturday, Feb. 24, after the warrant for her arrest was issued by Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero days after the illegal drug charges were filed last year.
De Lima lamented how judges perceived to be acting prudently or favorably to her will always be accused of having been influenced and corrupted and will be pilloried.
“It won’t be a wonder then if more Muntinlupa judges would either inhibit or opt to retire early,” she said.
“This has all become unreasonable, considering that a warrant of arrest was nevertheless issued against me only days after the charges were filed with the sala of (Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204) Judge (Juanita) Guerrero. Immediately after that, the issue of jurisdiction was raised before the Supreme Court, and it was only therefore prudent for the other judges to wait for the SC’s ruling on the matter before assuming jurisdiction over my person by issuing a warrant of arrest,” De Lima pointed out.
The lawmakers’ grilling on Muntinlupa RTC Judges Patria Manalastas de Leon and Amelia Fabros Corpuz showed how congressmen are wont to accept the allegations of the complainant in the Sereno impeachment case, lawyer Larry Gadon, hook, line and sinker, the senator said.

 

 

Palace, Solgen drub Trillanes probe bid

Saturday, 17 February 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

The government’s chief lawyer and the Palace scoffed at Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s effort to convince the Senate to still conduct a probe on allegations against President Duterte despite the Ombudsman’s termination of the investigation on the same charges when Mr. Duterte was mayor of Davao City.
Trillanes yesterday urged the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies chaired by Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero to hold his proposed inquiry.
The terminated criminal complaint was

filed by Trillanes on May 5, 2016 which accused Duterte of maintaining ghost employees in Davao City which Trillanes claimed could have funded the latter’s P2.4 billion worth of deposits. The case was closed and terminated on November 29 last year.
Solicitor General Jose Calida said the Senate should stop the hearing about Duterte’s unexplained wealth and undeclared bank accounts considering it is based on the complaint filed before the Ombudsman.
“Knowing that this frivolous case was terminated by the Ombudsman, Sen. Trillions (Trillanes) now seeks to have another Senate hearing on the matter to convince the public about his garbage junked by the Ombudsman,” Calida said.
“The Senate should stop this non-sense investigation.” he urged.
“Senator Trillanes who is always badgering the President about this. Now, what can you say now? His evidence was junked, and because it is junked, it is another word for garbage,” Calida added.
Malacañang, for its part, said Trillanes should “move on” from his obsession to pin Duterte with the discredited charges that even the Ombudsman has ended investigations on these.
“I have only admiration for Trillanes’ persistence. His charges are worn out so move on,” Roque told reporters.
    Trillanes wants AMLC
Trillanes said that the Senate probe he wishes will have the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) officials as resource persons after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales blamed the AMLC of withholding documents that resulted in the termination of the probe.
“So we could summon the AMLC and question the legality of its refusal to comply with the Ombudsman’s request,” Trillanes said on the reason behind his pursued probe.
“Based on the statement of the Ombudsman, the only reason  the investigation against Duterte was closed, without prejudice to reopening in the future, is the refusal of AMLC to submit vital data, specifically, the detailed bank transactions of Duterte,” the senator pointed out.
“Let us remember that the executive director of AMLC was appointed by Duterte and has since been proactively protecting his political master,” he added.
The senator was referring to AMLC Executive Dir. Mel Georgie Racela who replaced Julia Bacay-Abad, an appointee of former President Aquino and who resigned in January last year.
Abad’s resignation came after the AMLC and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) came under fire from Mr. Duterte after he accused them of ignoring his requests for documents related to alleged money laundering activities, as well as the bank records of Sen. Leila de Lima and others who were supposedly involved in the Bilibid drug trade.
Following Mr. Duterte’s challenge to Congress to investigate his alleged ill-gotten wealth, Trillanes last Feb. 5 formally filed a resolution in the Senate seeking to look into the Chief Executive’s bank transactions as well as that of
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio junked their alleged undisclosed “covered transactions,” or transactions exceeding P500,000.00, which may have violated the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).
The said transactions involve accounts supposedly being maintained by the President and Mayor Sara in the Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI).
“Now, in the interest of transparency and accountability, I am calling on the Senate Committee on Banks to conduct an inquiry. Ultimately, the truth about this very important issue is stored in the data storage of AMLC and BPI,” Trillanes said.
   Solgen hits Ombudsman
Calida also cried foul over Morales’ justification for her decision not to disclose to the  public the status on the plunder case filed by Trillanes against Mr. Duterte which has already been closed and terminate last yeat.
The Ombudsman last week confirmed that the fact-finding or field investigation on the complaints filed against the President was closed and terminated on Nov. 29, 2017 after the AMLC declined to provide a report or confirmation on the requested vital data.
The Ombudsman said, “[a] closed and terminated field investigation is without prejudice to the refiling of a complaint with new or additional evidence.”
It has come to the knowledge of Morales from the press briefing of Calida last Wednesday that he has been informed of the closure and termination of the investigation, through a Feb. 12, 2018 letter-response to his letter-inquiry dated Feb. 8, 2018, addressed to Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang.
Calida reacted to Thursday’s statements of Morales who defended herself by saying  she inhibited herself from the case and pointed out that “fact-finding investigations, under the rules, are generally confidential in nature.”
“Granting that she inhibited during the fact-finding, the case was already ‘closed and terminated’. There’s nothing more to inhibit from,” Calida pointed out in a post on his Twitter account.
“The Ombudsman has the constitutional duty to publicize this matter, as it involves the President of the Republic of the Philippines,” he stressed.
      Morales ‘broadcast’
           start of probe
If fact-finding investigations are generally confidential in nature, the  Solicitor General reminded the Ombudsman “broadcast that a fact-finding probe was being conducted. “Now that the case is ‘closed and terminated’, the Ombudsman kept silent,” he lamented.
The Ombudsman learned about such closure and termination only on Jan. 29, 2018, upon an inquiry on the status thereof, after learning that Carandang was formally charged and placed under preventive suspension by the Office of the President.
“The Ombudsman trusts that in the conduct of fact-finding investigations, efforts are exhausted to gather evidence and to comply with pertinent internal rules. Fact-finding investigations, under the rules, are generally confidential in nature,” Morales said.
“The Office is not obliged to inform the subject of the fact-finding investigation about its outcome. The confidentiality of proceedings was, in fact, recognized by the Solicitor General when he cited the exception that the Ombudsman has the power to publicize certain matters (e.g., whether or not to act upon an inquiry “out of curiosity” or media requests for case status out of journalistic duty),” she added.
The Ombudsman, Morales said, could not have considered exercising such discretionary power relative to the complaints against the President due to her inhibition.
Calida reminded her back in October 2017 the Ombudsman publicly claimed that the documents in their possession are from the AMLC. “Which is which?” he asked posted in his Twitter account.
Calida earlier questioned the decision of Ombudsman Carpio-Morales to withhold from the public the status of the case.
“A public officer must be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, and efficiency,” Calida told reporters during the press conference on Wednesday.
“Ombudsman Carpio-Morales, being the Ombudsman, must be the protector of the people. She has the constitutional duty to publicize matters covered by investigations when the circumstances so warrant and with due prudence,” he noted.
“This case involves the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Why are you withholding this information? When this case was filed, a press conference was even conducted. Three months after the termination of the case, the public has still no knowledge that the evidence supporting the allegations of Trillanes is without merit,” he explained.

 

Senate sends Faeldon to filthy Pasay jail

Wednesday, 31 January 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

Former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon will be committed to the Pasay City Jail after the Senate grappled with sending the defiant former rebel military officer to either the city jail with its unsanitary condition or Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Richard Gordon stood his ground and said unsanitary or not, Faeldon should be transferred to the Pasay City Jail.
“The Senate President just signed his commitment order,” Gordon said.
The matter on whether the jail facility is unsanitary or not should not be made an issue, Gordon said .
There were reports, following the postponement of Faeldon’s transfer Monday night, that he will be committed to the Bicutan jail.
“It was agreed upon unanimously,” Gordon said on the matter of Faeldon’s transfer from the Senate detention room where he had been staying since September last year after he was cited in contempt of the Senate blue ribbon committee.

“The Senate president has signed it and it is already in his hands. That was the agreement in the caucus yesterday of about 20 senators. That’s why I manifested on the floor and the decision is to bring him to Pasay (City jail),” Gordon said.
The senator dismissed earlier reports on the possibility of Faeldon being sent to Bicutan jail due to issue on Pasay City jail being “unsanitary” saying that what they agreed upon will prevail regardless of such issue.
Faeldon was escorted by members of the Senate’s Office of Sergeant-at-Arms (OSAA) and was seen wearing a statement t-shirt that said “Truth is Justice.”
Gordon said some OSAA personnel will also be looking out on Faeldon while he remains in Pasay City jail.
On the possibility of the former BoC chief, who has been already appointed as deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), being released if he will be remorseful for what Gordon described as “sordid conduct” during Monday’s blue ribbon hearing, the senator said it’s not a decision for him to make.
“It’s beyond me. It’s the decision of the Senate as a collegial body,” he said.
“(Besides ) he said he’s ready to go to jail. It is up to him. I mean this is a self-inflicted wound. He was very hard on this,” Gordon said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, however, said Faeldon as of late yesterday remained in the custody of the Senate since the arrangements for his transfer were not completed.
“I instructed the Senate Secretary to coordinate with the warden of the Pasay City because we do not want to surprise them with an additional person to be detained. He has not yet reported to me because I gave that instruction late last night,” he said.
“Let us just wait for the feedback on the report. I asked the people here, I think Faeldon is still in the Senate premises so nothing has changed,” Pimentel added.
Pimentel said the camp of Faeldon did not ask for any considerations in the Senate order to put him in a regular jail.
“Nobody coordinated with us. I think he must be happy with his situation. No complaint. No communication. Nothing,” he said.
The blue ribbon panel decided to transfer Faeldon to the jail following a heated exchange during a Senate hearing about corruption in the Bureau of Customs on Monday.
Gordon said the Senate has the power to detain a person to jail citing a case in 1950 when the Supreme Court issued a decision allowing the Senate action citing a citizen’s duty “to give frank, sincere, and truthful testimony before a competent authority.” It also said the witness at the time was “vociferous and militant” in citing constitutional rights and privileges.
“The state has the right to exact fulfillment of a citizen’s obligation, consistent of course with his right under the Constitution,” the decision read. “When a specific right and a specific obligation conflict with each other, and one is doubtful or uncertain while the other is clear and imperative, the former must give way to the latter,” it added.
The senator said the committee was considering releasing Faeldon until the two had a heated exchange on Monday. The former Customs chief said Gordon was “exaggerating” in his statements, and that senators had pre-judged him.
“He knew that if he had behaved himself, this would not have happened,” said Gordon.
“He is arrogant, defiant... When he cannot get his way, he conducts a coup. When he is incarcerated, he escapes. This is a creature of habit. He is a spoiled brat,” he added.
Gordon’s panel is probing the P6.4-billion shabu shipment that slipped past the Bureau.
Faeldon, who has maintained his innocence, has been detained at the upper house since September.
However, Gordon believes that Faeldon should at least be accountable for supposed negligence as Customs chief.
“Can you imagine this guy sat on a case — the biggest drug smuggling case... he sat on this for two months?” said Gordon.
“You are liable for commission and omission. He was already neglectful... when he did not file the case,” he added.
Gordon also dismissed Faeldon’s claims that requests made my Majority Leader Tito Sotto and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon were “illegal.” He pointed out that the agencies they were writing to could turn down their requests any time.
SC skips Faeldon plea
The Supreme Court (SC), meanwhile, did not take up or even include the petition filed by the former putschist questioning his continued detention for contempt as ordered by the Senate.
An insider said the petition filed by Faeldon last Monday was not included in the agenda of the SC justices during their regular weekly session yesterday. “It was not immediately raffled last Monday so it was not included in the agenda,” the source said, who spoke on anonymity due to lack of authority to speak for the Court.
Faeldon, who has been reappointed in the Duterte administration recently as deputy administrator for operations of the Department of National Defense - Office of Civil Defense (DND-OCD), also asked the SC to void the assailed order after the hearing.
As a consequence , Faeldon will have to remain in the Pasay City jail as ordered by the Senate who claimed he refused to cooperate in the legislative inquiry on the P6.4-billion shabu shipment in May last year.
Faeldon had asked the High Court to issue a temporary restraining order stopping the implementation of the arrest order issued by the Senate against him that led to his detention in the Senate since Sept. last year.
He was transferred to the Pasay City jail yesterday after a heated exchange with Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Richard Gordon during a hearing.
Faeldon has been deprived of his liberty for at least 134 days already since he was cited by the Senate for legislative contempt “which in any jurisdiction is neither a heinous offense nor a non-bailable offense.”
Petitioner likewise assailed the legality of the Senate order, saying it violated his constitutional right to due process.
He alleged that the Senate did not give him an opportunity to explain his side by issuing a show cause order to explain why he should not have been cited in contempt for not appearing in the hearings.Faeldon added the assailed arrest order lacks factual and legal basis.Earlier this month, he was granted furlough recently to allow him to witness the birth of his child, undergo a medical checkup and take his oath as OCD official. Mario J. Mallari

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