The latest controversy that has rocked the Court of Appeals—the attempted bribery of one of its justices—is only the latest in a string of similar misdemeanors.
Our research shows that two CA justices, so far, have been dismissed.
In 2001, Justice Elvi John Asuncion was accused of accepting money placed in “two gym bags delivered to his office.” The Supreme Court, through a committee of retired justices, probed the matter but found no substantial evidence that could pin down Asuncion on charges of bribery.
He was, however, dismissed for gross ignorance of the law following his issuance of an October 30, 2001, resolution in the case between Philippine National Bank, the National Labor Relations Commission and Erlinda Archinas.
Asuncion, who headed the 12th Division, extended the temporary restraining order he issued a month earlier which violated the Supreme Court rule stipulating that the Court of Appeals may issue a TRO only for a set period of 60 days.
Aside from this, Asuncion also sat on 71 motions for reconsideration and 82 cases which under Article 8, Section of the 1987 Constitution, should have been resolved within a 12-month period. He also decided 409 cases after the one-year period has lapsed.
But Asuncion is not the first justice to lose his seat in the Court of Appeals due to improper behavior.
On March 27, 2001, Justice Demetrio G. Demetria was removed from the bench after he was found guilty of interceding on behalf of alleged drug syndicate Yu Yuk Lai.
Demetria was stripped of his retirement benefits and was forbidden from taking on any other government post after he violated Rule 2.04 of the 1989 Code of Judicial Conduct, which prohibits justices from exerting undue influence that could affect the outcome of pending cases.
Today, the Court of Appeals is in hot waters for an alleged bribery attempt of Justice Jose Sabio Jr., acting chair of the 9th Division. But it also raises questions on ethical behavior of some of the justices. (See special report, Analysis: Appellate justices displayed undue interest in Meralco-GSIS row)
Sabio, along with Justices Myrna Dimaranan Vidal and Vicente Roxas, issued the temporary restraining order last May 30 that prevented the Securities of Exchange Commission from implementing its show-cause order against Anthony Rosete, corporate secretary of Meralco.
The power distributor is locked in a heated row with the Government Service Insurance System following the contentious proxy validation on May 27, 2008 where the Lopezes seized control of Meralco.
Sabio alleged that a certain Meralco emissary offered him P10 million in exchange for handing over the Meralco case to Justice Bienvenido Reyes, the designated chairman of the 9th division who had just returned from a leave of absence.
The tables were turned, however, when the “Meralco emissary” – Francis Roa de Borja – accused Sabio of naming a P50-million price tag in return for a decision favoring the Lopez-owned power utility.
Moreover, in his affidavit, Borja said that he paid Sabio P300,000 for giving legal advice on a land deal he was brokering. At that time, Sabio was RTC judge in Cagayan de Oro.
According to Sec. 11 of Canon Code of Judicial Conduct, “Judges shall not practice law whilst the holder of judicial office.”
In addition, Section 13, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, “Judges and members of their families shall neither ask for, nor accept, any gift, bequest, loan or favor in relation to anything done or to be done or omitted to be done by him or her in connection with the performance of judicial duties.”
Another count of ethical breach, on Sabio’s part, is his meeting with Borja, who was interested in a case.
The New Code on Judicial Conduct is clear on safeguarding the integrity of the court: “Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer.”