SC dismisses complaint vs Carpio, Sereno

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 18 2012 10:16 AM | Updated as of Jun 18 2012 08:33 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC), sitting en banc, has dismissed a complaint against Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno filed by a litigant in connection with the recovery of his attorney's fees and compensation for services rendered in evicting occupants of a bank property in Pasay City.

In a per curiam resolution dated June 13, the high court dismissed the complaint of lawyer Magdaleno Pena who filed a case against Urban Bank and several members of its Board of Directors before the Bago City, Negros Occidental Regional Trial Court (RTC).

The trial court ordered the payment of P28.5 million to Pena as agent's compensation, attorney's fees, reimbursement of expenses, exemplary damages, and costs of suit. The bank appealed before the Court of Appeals (CA), but Pena was able to convince the RTC to execute its decision, thus the case was elevated to the high tribunal.

Pena filed a complaint against Carpio and Sereno on Sept. 19, 2011, alleging that Carpio, as the justice-in-charge of the consolidated cases, caused the issuance of the high court's Nov. 13, 2002 resolution which suspended the transfer of the bank's club shares in Makati Sports Club, Inc. (MSCI), which was supposed to be levied and sold by the Sheriff in connection with the RTC ruling favorable to Pena.

Pena claimed that the high court did not grant the bank's motion for clarification, but Carpio who allegedly acted on it by a mere notation.

Pena claimed that opposing counsel, Atty. Manuel Singson, was able to secure an advance copy of the Nov. 13 resolution, days before it was officially mailed. Pena claimed it was Carpio who was responsible for the "leaked" resolution.

Pena also alleged that Sereno, the justice-in-charge to whom the main cases were re-raffled, "will attempt to protect Carpio" by refusing to inhibit from the case even as Carpio's former law office, the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo Angangco Law Office, allegedly had a significant role in  her appointment to the Supreme Court.

In its resolution, the high court said the charges against the magistrates had no basis and no "extrinsic factual evidence to support it." The court further noted that Pena's allegations were all addressed and debunked in an earlier resolution dated Oct. 19, 2011.

"Magdaleno M. Peña’s complaint against Justices Antonio T. Carpio and Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno is hereby dismissed for lack of merit," the ruling read.

The high court stressed that it was the court that acted on the motion for clarification on issue, not merely Carpio. As for the allegations against Sereno, the court said this was "purely conjectural."

Had the court not resolved the complaint against Carpio and Sereno, it would have served as a stumbling block in their nominations for Chief Justice. Sec. 5 on 'Disqualification,' Rule 4 of the Rules of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) states pending regular administrative cases may disqualify nominees for any judicial post, including the post of Chief Justice.

Carpio is automatically nominated for the top judicial post, being the most senior sitting magistrate of the high tribunal. Sereno, meantime, was nominated via 3 separate letter endorsements.