SC sacks CA justice

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Supreme Court yesterday sacked a justice of the Court of Appeals and suspended another for committing improprieties in connection with the case involving the Manila Electric Company and the Government Service Insurance System.

Voting 12-1, the High Court dismissed from the judicial service Associate Justice Vicente Q. Roxas in connection with the bribery scandal involving Meralco. CA 6th Division chairman Associate Justice Jose Sabio was also ordered suspended for two months.

CA Presiding Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, 8th Division chairman Bienvenido Reyes and 6th Division junior member Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal were reprimanded and admonished for not taking appropriate action.

Also, the Supreme Court en banc recommended that Cagayan De Oro businessman Francis Roa De Borja be charged with attempted bribery before the Department of Justice, and the case of Presidential Commission on Good Government chair Camilo Sabio be referred to the Office of the Bar Confidant for appropriate action.

Justice Sabio said his brother called him twice to “intercede” for the GSIS.

The Supreme Court said the five justices committed “irregularities and improprieties” prejudicial to the integrity of the judiciary.

It found Roxas “dishonest and untruthful” about his statement that the deliberations on the final decision on the case were recorded.

The SC noted that it was not a true “transcript” of the minutes of the meeting, but purely a “transcript from memory” because no notes were taken, no stenographer was present, and no tape recorder was used.

The panel noted that while the parties in the Meralco case were given 15 days after the hearing on June 23, 2008 or up to July 8, 2008 to simultaneously submit their memoranda , Justice Roxas prepared the decision before the parties had filed their memoranda in the case and submitted it to Justice Dimaranan-Vidal for her signature on July 8, 2008.

“His rush to judgment was indicative of undue interest and unseemly haste,” the SC stated.

“He (Justice Roxas) cheated the parties’ counsel of the time, effort, and energy that they invested in the preparation of their ponderous memoranda which, as it turned out, neither he or the other members of the Eighth Division bothered to read before signing his decision. He made a mockery of his own order for the parties to submit memoranda, and rendered their compliance a futile exercise,” it pointed out.

Roxas was also “thoughtlessly disrespectful” to Dimaranan-Vidal when he unceremoniously discarded, shredded, and burned the decision that the lady magistrate had signed, merely because he allegedly forgot that she and Justice Sabio had already been “reorganized out” of the Special Ninth Division as of July 4, 2008, hence out of Meralco case.

“Out of courtesy, he (Roxas) should have explained to Justice Dimaranan-Vidal the reason why he was not promulgating the decision which she had signed,” the SC panel further stated.

On the other hand, Justice Sabio, who claimed to have been offered by De Borja P10 million to relinquish the chairmanship of the Special 9th Division, committed irregularities and improprieties arising from his telephone conversation with his brother, in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers.

“Justice Sabio was remiss in his duty to inform the Presiding Justice about Camilo Sabio’s call to him which he admitted was unethical as his brother tried to influence him,” the report said.

The High Court said “Justice Sabio broke the shield of confidentiality that covers the disposition of cases in the Court in order to preserve and protect the integrity and independence of the Court itself,” when he talked with brother and with De Borja about the Meralco case.

While Presiding Justice Vasquez admitted his lapses of judgment, the panel of former SC justices that probed the scandal considered his indecisiveness in resolving the chairmanship row between Justice Sabio and Justice Reyes as a “failed leadership as head of the CA.”