SC justice applicant cites 'procedural lapses' in CA's 'Ilocos 6' ruling

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 04 2017 04:42 PM

MANILA - A Sandiganbayan justice in the running to be the next Supreme Court associate justice on Tuesday said there were procedural lapses in the Court of Appeals' (CA) issuance of the writ of habeas corpus in connection with the petition filed by Ilocos Norte officials currently detained in the House of Representatives. 

Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo said a preliminary citation order should have been issued first instead of the writ. 

"There were procedural lapses," he told the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) which screened the candidates for the post to be left vacant by the retirement of Associate Justice Jose Mendoza in August.

"This is a defect that should be addressed. Under the parameter that there was no order coming from the court, that would be an error. It should be corrected," he added.

He said that the petition for the issuance of the writ of habeas corpus was not the proper remedy, and that the petitioners should have filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court to question grave abuse of discretion by the concerned House Representatives.

Gesmundo was interviewed Tuesday morning to fill in the vacancy along with 2 other candidates, CA Associate Justice Samuel Gaerlan and Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard Mosquera.

Ten other candidates have previously been interviewed for the post, which would be President Rodrigo Duterte's fourth appointment into the high tribunal.

Duterte earlier appointed to Supreme Court Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Noel Tijam in March. He has yet to choose who will replace Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, who is set to retire on Thursday.

Gesmundo's comments came amid a clash of views between the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court.

Upon the order of the House Committee on Good Government and Accountability, the House has held 6 Ilocos Norte provincial officers for allegedly refusing to cooperate in a legislative inquiry since May 29.

The employees had appeared before the committee’s inquiry into the alleged misuse of tobacco excise tax amounting to P66.5-million in the purchase of mini trucks, mini cabs, and second-hand buses in 2011.

In the hearing, the officials repeatedly said they could not remember the transactions, and committee members were irked at their “refusal to answer questions." They decided to hold the officials in contempt, detaining them at the House.

Responding to a petition for habeas corpus, the Court of Appeals then ordered that the detained employees be presented at its hearings. The House did not comply with the order.

The appellate court later granted the employees' petition for bail and subsequently issued an order for their release. The House also defied this court order, with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez even threatening to dissolve the CA, as he maintained that the lawmakers' power of contempt is not subject to judicial review. 

The CA and the House have since traded show cause orders compelling each other to explain why they should not be cited in contempt. 

Over the weekend, Alvarez floated the idea of impeaching Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno because she allegedly ordered the CA justices to disobey the show cause order. 

Weeks ago, Sereno and CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes urged the House to withdraw the show cause order and instead seek remedies before the Supreme Court.