Sandiganbayan chief won't inhibit from Enrile PDAF cases

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 15 2017 02:18 PM

MANILA- The Sandiganbayan 3rd Division has denied the requests of former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and his former chief of staff Gigi Reyes for the inhibition of Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice and 3rd Division Chair Amparo Cabotaje-Tang from handling their plunder cases.

In a decision written by Tang herself, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Sarah Jane Fernandez and Bernelito Fernandez, the court said that the reasons cited by Enrile and Reyes were not valid. 

The two, who are accused of plunder along with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles for the multi-million peso Priority Development Assistance Fund scam, anchored their motion on the alleged bias of Tang because of her appointment to the anti-graft court by former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. 

“Indeed, if all members of the bench were to be compelled to recuse themselves on the ground that unconscious powers residing beneath them could probably hold sway, then nobody would be·sitting on any bench in any court right at this very moment,” the court said.

Enrile and Reyes also questioned the resolutions which the court issued regarding their case.

Tang however said the questioned resolutions, such as the denial of Enrile’s motion for bill of particulars, were arrived at by all three justices of the 3rd Division. 

Tang also refused to accept the allegations of Enrile and Reyes that she should inhibit because the decisions of the court were erroneous.

“The argument that the Court’s Resolutions are erroneous does not constitute a just and valid ground for the inhibition of the Chairperson. To be sure, an erroneous ruling can be remedied and corrected,” the court said.

Tang also noted that her, being an appointee, cannot be taken against her.

“The mere fact that the Presiding Justice was appointed by former President Aquino III cannot be considered a valid and just ground for her recusation,” the court said. 

If she will be accused of bias, Tang said she would have sided with Enrile, her “kababayan,” and Enrile’s lawyer Estelito Mendoza who mentored her at the Office of the Solicitor General.

“But the Chairperson took an oath before she donned her judicial robe - an oath she must discharge without fear or fervor, an oath she will not shrink from,” the court said.