Ex-lawmaker gets favorable ruling in P10M damages suit-A A +A
Monday, August 20, 2012
THE Court of Appeals (CA) has granted the petition filed by former Manila representative Mario Crespo, alias Mark Jimenez, seeking to set aside the 2005 ruling of a Batangas court ordering him to pay former Justice secretary Hernani Perez the amount of P10 million in damages.
Perez filed a complaint for damages against Jimenez after the latter accused him of extorting $2 million to facilitate the approval of the $470 million government contract with the Argentine firm Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima (IMPSA) for the rehabilitation of the Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan hydropower plant in Laguna.
In a ruling penned by Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang, the CA's Special Fifth Division remanded to the Batangas City RTC the case filed by Perez for further proceedings on the merit.
The CA said the trial court erred in rendering its judgment by default for failure of Jimenez to answer the interrogatories served upon him by the complainant.
The appellate court noted that under Section 1 of Rule 25 of the Revised Rules of Court on Interrogatories to Parties, the purpose of serving interrogatories is to elicit material and relevant facts from any adverse party.
It said the trial court should not have issued the ruling based on Jimenez's failure to answer the interrogatories considering that most of the interrogatories filed by Perez are the same as the allegations contained in the original complaint by the latter, which have already been denied by the former solon in his counter-affidavit.
The CA also said the trial court should have taken into consideration the fact that Jimenez was being held in prison in Miami, Florida in the United States for a federal crime for election fraud involving illegal campaign contributions. Thus, his failure to answer the written interrogatories was not out of his unwillingness to do so, but because of his incarceration.
"The foregoing circumstances considered, the trial court should not have rendered a judgment by default. Substantial justice would be better served if the case is decided on the merits. This is also in keeping with the rule that rules on technicality were promulgated to secure, not to override substantial justice," the Court ruled.
"It would be in the paramount and overriding interest of justice if we allow the defendant-appellant to air his side of the story and present evidence to support his defense," it added.
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Normandie Pizarro and Leoncia Dimagiba.
Records showed that Perez, who served as the justice secretary during the initial years of the Arroyo administration, filed the damage suit after Jimenez labeled him as a "legal terrorist" at a privilege speech in Congress that he tried to extort money from him, allegedly for the approval of the controversial IMPSA deal.
According to Jimenez, Perez had tried to wring $2 million from him, an amount he alleged was deposited in the former justice official’s account at the Coutts Bank in Hong Kong in February 2001.
Jimenez alleged that Perez asked for the amount while promising to stop pressuring him from testifying against former president Joseph Estrada in his plunder case.
His allegations resulted in the filing of graft charges against Perez, which eventually led to his resignation. (JCV/Sunnex)