CA probe P10-M bribe on justice

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Court of Appeals yesterday referred to the Supreme Court the allegation of one if its justices that an emissary of the Manila Electric Co. offered him P10 million in exchange for inhibiting himself from the case involving Meralco and the Government Service Insurance System.

Meralco denied the allegations. “The statement of Sabio is a very grave accusation. Meralco does not engage in such illegal practices. Never has and never will,” Elpi Cuña, vice president for communictions, said.

After an en banc hearing, the CA forwarded the issue raised by Associate Justice Jose Sabio to the high court’s Office of the Court Administrator to determine whether the justices involved committed any improper acts.

The CA en banc resolution also stated that it is leaving it to the “parties to take whatever steps they may deem appropriate in the usual course of legal procedure” on the case between the GSIS and Meralco. The utility firm was seeking the appeals court’s injunction against a Securities and Exchange Commission order stopping the May 27 board election which left Meralco still under the control of the Lopez family.

The CA also opted to “refer the conflict in the interpretation of the Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals as to the justices of the division which should take part in the particular stages of the cases to the Standing Committee on Rules of the CA in order to prevent the recurrence of a similar situation.”

It appealed to everyone concerned to “respect the sub judice nature of the case and to refrain from public discussion of the merits of the case.”

Sabio had sent a letter to Presiding Justice Conrado M. Vasquez claiming that he was “alarmed at the way this decision was arrived (at)” and that some influential persons tried to buy his silence for P10 million. Justice Vicente Q. Roxas wrote the 57-page decision without bothering to read and take into consideration the memorandum of both Meralco and GSIS, Sabio complained.

The decision voided the order of the SEC enjoining Meralco from validating the proxy votes in favor of the Lopez family during the Meralco stockholders meeting on May 27.

Sabio was the acting chairman of the CA Eight Division when its head, Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes, went on leave earlier this month. Members of the division include Justices Roxas and Apolinario Bruselas, Jr.

He said that GSIS and Meralco both filed their respective motions on July 7 and he was surprised to learn that Roxas had by July 11 already completed his 57-page ruling on the case and had already forwarded it to his other members for comment and signature.

But Roxas vehemently denied Sabio’s accusations, saying nothing irregular had been done and that he merely complied with the appellate court’s reorganization order which stemmed from the retirement of four associate justices earlier this year.

The Meralco case was moved to the eighth division following the reorganization.