TWO Court of Appeals (CA) associate justices previously yanked out of Cebu upon orders of the Supreme Court returned the other Monday, ready to take over the chairmanships of two divisions.

But Associate Justices Pampio Abarintos and Isaias Dicdican got recalled on the same day they arrived, as Chief Justice Reynato Puno reportedly found their transfer not in accordance with the Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals (IRCA) as amended.

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“Justice Dicdican addressed the CA employees during the flag-raising ceremony that morning. He did not expect that they would be recalled in the afternoon,” said Thelma Chiong of the Crusade Against Violence (CAV).

Chiong and her organization were, in part, responsible for getting the two justices transferred in April 2008. They had written Puno to allege that justice was “for sale” at the appellate court.

Both justices denied the allegation, which the Supreme Court did not deem worth taking up.

In an interview with Sun.Star Cebu yesterday, Chiong admitted she wrote Puno again immediately after hearing that the two associate justices were being transferred

back to Cebu.

“I cannot say that the recall was in direct relation to our recent letter but we were informed that they were recalled in the afternoon of the day they came back,” she said.

She also acknowledged that nothing in the recall order referred to her earlier allegations.

Atty. Lucila Cad Enjambre, assistant clerk of court for the CA Cebu Station, declined to comment, stressing only that the organizational set-up puts Justices Abarintos and Dicdican in Manila, not in Cebu.

She referred all questions to Justice Ramon Cruz.

But Chiong said a CA office order was indeed issued covering the two justices’ return to Cebu.

The order was signed by Acting Presiding Justice Portia Hormachuelos, who hails from Cebu. It was received by the CA Cebu Station last Jan. 8 and was immediately executory, having taken effect the day before.

The order assigned Dicdican and Abarintos as chairmen of the 18th and 19th divisions, respectively.

It was taken over by another office order, which took effect last Jan. 13 or two days after they were supposedly called back to Manila.

In this new order, both were assigned as senior members of the 1st and the 5th divisions, respectively.

Dicdican and Abarintos were transferred from Cebu pursuant to a Supreme Court (SC) en banc resolution dated March 18, 2008.

It stemmed from the investigation the SC ordered over the “justice for sale” allegation of Chiong and separate letters submitted by then Cebu Regional Trial Court (RTC) executive judge Fortunato de Gracia Jr. and one Rosendo Germano, a litigant.

At that time, Abarintos and Dicdican handled the 19th and 20th divisions, respectively.

Both divisions, together with the 18th division that was then chaired by incumbent Executive Justice Antonio Villamor, are based in Cebu City.

Chiong, in her 2008 letter to Puno, claimed that justice was “for sale” at the appellate court and said she has received a lot of information about it.

De Gracia, on the other hand, endorsed a newspaper report on the same subject. Germano sought the abolition of the Cebu CA Station, citing the allegedly “erroneous dismissal” of a Leyte case where “money did much of the talking.”

The SC, in a ruling Feb. 22, 2008, didn’t give much attention to the actual allegations and instead focused on the need to reorganize the appellate court.

In the 15-page resolution, it cited the need to impose a stricter rule on reassignments instead.

The ruling stopped the practice of justices signing a waiver when reassigned either through a promotion or transfer to another station, like Manila or Cagayan de Oro.

On the subject of justice for sale to litigants, all the ruling said is that the allegations all pertain to actions taken by trial courts in pending cases.

These, according to the ruling, are “subject to review” in the “proper judicial proceedings prescribed by the Rules of Court” and “not in an administrative investigation.”

Dicdican and Abarintos, together with Associate Justices Stephen Cruz, Franchito Diamante and Amy Lazaro-Javier, tried to block their transfer by filing a motion for reconsideration against the Feb. 22 ruling.

The SC, in its March 18 ruling, denied the motion “with finality” and said there were “no substantial matters raised to warrant the reversal” of the resolution.

Abarintos wrote a separate letter, dated March 15, requesting that he be retained in Cebu City, but this too was denied.