MANILA, Philippines -- The Supreme Court, and not a group of retired justices, should hear the case of alleged bribery within the Court of Appeals because it is "too heinous," Senator Joker Arroyo said Tuesday.
The high court created a panel of retired justices -- Carolina Griño-Aquino, Romeo Callejo, and Flerida Ruth Romero -- to hear the exchange of bribery and extortion charges between appellate court Justice Jose Sabio and businessman Francis Roa De Borja, stemming from the dispute between the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
Another appeals court justice, Vicente Roxas, has also been implicated in the controversy.
The controversy stemmed from the appellate court?s July 23 decision nullifying a cease and desist order (CDO) issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against the election of Meralco?s board, which was sought by GSIS general manager Winston Garcia in a bid to wrest control of the power firm.
Sabio claimed the wrong justices ruled on the case because it was the 9th division composed of himself, Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal and Vicente Roxas that heard the petition filed by Meralco and issued a TRO against the CDO.
But it was the 8th division of Justices Roxas, Bienvenido Reyes and Apolinario Bruselas who declared the CDO void.
Sabio accused businessman De Borja of offering him P10-million bribe on Meralco?s behalf to inhibit himself from the case.
But De Borja, in an affidavit, claimed the original bribe offer to Sabio was from government and that the justice asked for a higher amount to resist the government ?blandishment.?
"What happened is too heinous -- alleged bribery and case grabbing. There is no substitute perhaps to the High Court hearing it first hand," Arroyo said.
"With all due respect, it would be preferable, to assuage the pains and anxiety of the trial bar, that the investigation of the Court of Appeals scandal be conducted by the Supreme Court itself, or by a committee sitting justices," Arroyo said.
The human-rights lawyer earlier described the appeals court?s reputation for corruption as ?widespread as cancer,? but that many lawyers are too intimidated to complain for fear of retaliation. He said the controversy should be an opportunity to clean up the appellate court.
"Delegating the investigation to a panel of retired justices who in turn will submit their findings to the high court for review and determination [is] akin to a trial by commissioners," he said.