MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman and former Armed Forces comptroller Carlos Garcia have filed their respective oppositions to the motion of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) seeking the inhibition of Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval in the retired general’s plunder trial on question about the magistrate’s impartiality.
The OSG said Sandoval should remove himself from the case because his son, assistant special prosecutor Rex Reynaldo Sandoval, is part of the office representing the government.
However, Deputy Special Prosecutor Robert E. Kallos and Assistant Special Prosecutors Jose M. Balmeo and Joseph F. Capistrano argued that the ground relied upon by the OSG is flimsy at best since the younger Sandoval has no participation in the Garcia plunder trial and is not even part of the team of prosecutors assigned to any case pending before the Second Division.
Prosecutor Sandoval, they noted, is with the Prosecution Bureau I that handles cases at the graft court’s First Division.
They also pointed out that the OSG motion did not even impute any act committed by Justice Sandoval that would tend to show or manifest his supposed partiality or bias in favor of Garcia, his wife Clarita, and sons Ian Carl, Juan Paulo, and Timothy Mark.
Defense lawyer Constantino De Jesus, counsel for Garcia, meanwhile said the OSG motion should be junked because the movant has no standing as far as the court is concerned.
He noted that the OSG has filed a motion for intervention but the said motion has yet to be resolved much less granted hence the OSG has no legal standing to speak of.
“Before it becomes a party, (OSG) as ‘would be intervenor’ has no right to see any relief from this Honorable Court,” De Jesus said.
He added that Prosecutor Sandoval only joined the Office of the Special Prosecutor in November 2010 - long after the Garcia plunder case had been filed in court and nine months after the Garcia plea bargain was approved by the Office of the Ombudsman.
De Jesus said Sandoval, even if he is the chairman of the Second Division, has only one vote like the two other members of the bench.
“(T)he distinct relationship of one member of this Honorable Court to one of the many prosecutors in the Ombudsman/OSP is totally lost in the collegiate nature of the Honorable Sandiganbayan,” he said.