Enrile wants Sandigan chief justice out
Former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile has sought the inhibition of Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang from his pork barrel cases, hinting that her appointment by former President Benigno Aquino III might influence her decisions.
In a motion dated May 26, Enrile, through top defense lawyer Estelito Mendoza, described how Aquino bypassed Tang’s seniors when he selected the junior justice to head the antigraft court on Oct. 7, 2013.
Although the motion stated there can “hardly be any doubt” as to her qualifications, it cited the “‘subconscious forces,’ which affects the verdicts in the momentous cases she decides.”
It quoted a portion of United States Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo’s classic 1921 book, “The Nature of the Judicial Process,” which described the “subconscious forces” that shape a judge’s thought processes.
Part of the quote read: “Deep below consciousness are other forces, the likes and the dislikes, the predilections and the prejudices, the complex of instincts and emotions and habits and convictions, which make the man, whether he be litigant or judge.”
The motion also hinted at Aquino’s intent to prosecute him and fellow minority senators for the pork barrel scam, as shown by his last State of the Nation Address on July 27, 2015, where he cited the arrest of the three senators implicated in the pork barrel scam as proof that “justice is blind.”
Enrile also cited the “extraordinary speed” it took the Tang-chaired Third Division to deny his motion for bill of particulars seeking clarification of the purportedly vague charges.
His motion noted that the court denied the request during a July 11, 2014 hearing after deliberating the matter in a 10-minute recess. Mendoza sought reconsideration, but the appeal was also denied after a five-minute recess.
Enrile said he had already considered seeking Tang’s recusal at the time, although he opted instead to pursue his successful bail petition at the Supreme Court.
During a Thursday hearing, Tang gave prosecutors a nonextendible period of 10 days to comment on Enrile’s motion. He will in turn be given another seven days to reply to the comment.
Enrile is accused of pocketing P172.8-million in kickbacks in exchange for diverting his Priority Development Assistance Fund proceeds to dubious foundations linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
This was not the first time Tang’s inhibition was sought in a high-profile corruption case. Former Makati City Mayor Elenita Binay in November sought her recusal after she questioned the intention behind her bid to reraffle off her Ospital ng Makati cases to separate divisions.
Tang denied the motion in January as well as the ensuing appeal in April, finding no reason to disqualify herself from hearing the case. This prompted Binay to petition the Supreme Court to exclude her from her graft and malversation cases.