Preempting the Supreme Court

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Monday, June 30, 2014


SOME of the lawyers who have appeared before his division of the Sandiganbayan do not speak fondly of Justice Gregory Ong. He’s unreasonably strict and he insults lawyers, they claim.

Ong’s attitude towards members of the bar in fact became the subject of an administrative complaint against him and the two other members of his division. Ong was fined, another justice was admonished and the third one warned.

Yesterday, a Manila-published broadsheet reported that Ong was in for more serious trouble. “Sandiganbayan justice tied to Napoles faces ax,” read the paper’s headline.

Under it was the story on the supposed recommendation by retired Supreme Court Justice Angela Sandoval-Gutierrez, who investigated Ong upon order of the Supreme Court, to dismiss the latter for allegedly accepting money from Janet Napoles and for fixing her graft case that arose from the supply of Kevlar helmets to the Philippine armed forces.

I don’t care what happens to Ong. I mean, if he is guilty, he should be punished. Otherwise, he should be cleared.

What bothers me is the premature disclosure of Justice Gutierrez’s findings. Hers is only a recommendation; the Supreme Court is yet to deliberate on whether to adopt it or not. The leak and the announcement that Ong “faces ax” has the effect of preempting the High Tribunal.

Also, there used to be a rule (I’m not sure if it still subsists) that says administrative complaints against judges are confidential. The reason is to prevent the erosion of the public’s trust in the judiciary through the filing of baseless and unfounded charges.

Another thought: if Ong is punished for fixing the graft case, what will happen to the other members of the division that acquitted Napoles? The Sangiganbayan, as the Supreme Court has clearly pointed out in its decision in the first administrative complaint against Ong, is a collegial body.

Saying that Ong is the fixer implies that some others have been fixed. Will they be allowed to go scot-free?

***

I had the pleasure of witnessing two of my friends receive prestigious awards from the Cebu Chamber of Commerce in elaborate ceremonies at an uptown hotel last Saturday evening. Engr. Caloy Co was cited as the Entrepreneur of the Year while Dr. Norberto Quisumbing Jr. received the Award of Distinction.

Caloy is the president of Cebu Oversea Hardware Corporation while NQ is chairman of the Norkis Group of Companies.

In their respective acceptance speeches, Caloy and NQ harped on the need to observe honesty and hard work in running a business. “Work with honesty, sincerity, hard work and fairness,” Co urged his fellow businessmen. NQ said honesty and efficiency are “Siamese twins.” You can’t be good if you cheat or steal, he said.

He also took time to challenge his fellow businessmen’s social conscience, pointing out the “millions in this God-forsaken country of ours who need the help of those who have…in whatever way they can.”

He cited the work of the Q and Norkis families who have set up the Punla and Filipino Foundation, Inc. to do something for the poor by not just giving but by helping upgrade the “quality of their minds and bodies.”

He lamented how many of the poor are “driven to crime and condemned to a life of oblivion, absent of quality.”

Concluding his speech, NQ urged his audience “to think about sharing a little with what you have with those who do not have.”

“When you do that, you please our Almighty God at the same time prevent the Philippines – the only country we have - from breaking apart because it has lost its conscience.”

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 01, 2014.

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