So what’s wrong with being ‘ninong’?By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Former solicitor general and retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura Sr. on Saturday disputed the allegation that the recommendation he had made as solicitor general on the Quintos double murder case was now tainted by his agreeing to stand in as a sponsor at the wedding of the daughter of the main accused.
A brother of the murdered Quintos brothers on Monday questioned the propriety of Nachura’s and incumbent Supreme Court Justice Arturo Brion’s standing as principal sponsors at the wedding on Monday of the daughter of Jose Villarosa, the accused mastermind of the 1997 murder of Michael and Paul Quintos in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro.
Villarosa, a former congressman, and six farmers were convicted by a lower court and sentenced to death for the double murder, but the decision was overturned by the Court of Appeals. Nachura, as the then solicitor general, recommended to the appellate court that Villarosa and three of his coaccused be acquitted for insufficiency of evidence.
The Quintos family petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse the appellate court decision acquitting Villarosa. The case is now pending in the high court’s second division.
Robert Quintos, a brother of the slain Quintos brothers, questioned the propriety of Brion and Nachura’s role in the wedding of the Villarosa daughter, pointing out that justices should not be socializing with litigants whose cases are being heard by their courts.
He said that with the two justices’ close association with the Villarosas, the question arose about the “impropriety of all past and future recommendations and decisions with regard to Mr. Villarosa.”
Nachura, who chairs Arellano Law Foundation, which operates Arellano University School of Law in Manila, disagreed that there is something improper in his recommendation to acquit Villarosa.
“I recall that the position taken by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) was reached after a thorough study of the evidence on record, and after discussion with the members of the division of the OSG assigned to the case, headed by a senior assistant solicitor general,” Nachura said in a statement sent through his son, lawyer Antonio Eduardo Jr. of Accra Law office.
“Please note that the OSG position was based mainly on its appreciation of the evidence, and is not binding nor even persuasive on the courts. The fact that the Court of Appeals, also on the basis of the same evidence on record, acquitted some and convicted other accused in effect validated the OSG position on the matter,” Nachura said.
The public information office of the Supreme Court has yet to confirm if Brion, as a member of the second division, was participating in the handling of the Quintos’ appeal.
Based on Supreme Court internal memorandums, Brion became a member of the second division in June 2011. Before that, he was a member of the third division.
Customarily, the justices to whom a case is originally raffled would continue handling it even if they are later transferred to other divisions. The original justices—or their substitutes, in case of retirements and inhibitions— would then render a decision as a “special” or “former” division.
The high court’s acting public information chief, Ma. Victoria Gleoresty Guerra, said the court “has appropriate rules applicable to conflicts and ethical situations that Justice Brion can apply.”
The slain Michael and Paul Quintos were the sons of Ricardo Quintos, a political rival of Villarosa. The Quintos brothers were shot dead by a group of men while attending a birthday party in Mamburao in December 1997. Ricardo accused Villarosa, who was the congressman at the time, of masterminding the killing.
The Villarosas are loyal allies of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Amelita, the wife of Jose, who now holds the congressional seat formerly held by her husband, is a close friend of Arroyo and often accompanied the former President in her travels. Arroyo is a principal sponsor at the wedding.