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Trillanes: I’ve witnesses against 2 CA justices

Binay camp calls senator’s claims ‘political striptease’
/ 12:46 AM April 16, 2015
Antonio Trillanes IV

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.
INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

MANILA, Philippines–Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV says evidence on alleged corruption in the judiciary is forthcoming.

He said in a news conference Wednesday it was up to his informants to decide if they want to turn their world upside down and testify that two Court of Appeals justices allegedly received P25 million each in bribes to stop the suspension of Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr.

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The senator said he might conduct an executive session to allow his informants relay what they know about the alleged payoff behind closed doors, or have them face individual senators privately.

As for the strength of his evidence, he acknowledged that there were usually no paper trail or receipts in bribery, but said he could cite the justices’ previous decisions.

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“We can show the pattern of behavior, the TROs, the frequency, the flip-flopping decisions, we will show all these. We will comb through their previous decisions,” Trillanes said.

But Trillanes stressed that the previous rulings of Justices Jose Reyes Jr. and Francisco Acosta of the CA’s three-member Sixth Division could establish a pattern of wrongful behavior even if his witnesses decide not to reveal their identities.

“Ultimately, it’s their decision because it could change their lives. We will provide them with all the protection that is needed. But still, it’s their lives, especially if they live in that world. If you take them out, where will they go?” he said in an interview with reporters.

Asked if his sources’ main concern was retaliation from the Binay camp, he said this was just part of it. “After that, their world would be changed. They would be turning their backs on their old world,” he said.

‘Political striptease’

The Binay camp dismissed Trillanes’ claims as nothing more than “political striptease.”

A day after he filed a resolution calling on the Senate to investigate Reyes and Acosta, Trillanes said that he had “validated” the information given to him—that the two justices each received P20 million for the CA’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the 60-day suspension order of the Office of the Ombudsman on Binay while it conducts an investigation into allegations in the overpriced Makati City Hall Building II.

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The resolution, likewise, said both Reyes and Acosta received additional bribes of P5 million each when they subsequently issued an injunction against the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior and Local Government for refusing to recognize the CA’s TRO.

The Supreme Court has begun proceedings initiated by the Ombudsman to stop the Court of Appeals from interfering in its investigation of Binay, who has denied wrongdoing.

The third member of the Sixth Division, Associate Justice Eduardo Peralta Jr., was not involved in the bribery, according to Trillanes, who has refused to identify “reliable sources” that had given him information against Reyes and Acosta.

Absurdity of ruling

The ruling on the Binay case itself could be part of the proof, he contended.

“The absurdity of the ruling proves that something anomalous took place,” the senator said.

In a statement on behalf of the Sixth Division, the justices denied Trillanes’ allegations as “baseless” and accused the senator of “harassment.”

Trillanes also said he believed the appellate court justices could be invited to the Senate inquiry, along with lawyer Arthur “Pancho” Villaraza who the senator said had brokered the supposed deal. Villaraza has likewise denied Trillanes’ accusation and said that Binay was not a client.

Told that Trillanes planned to release evidence of judicial corruption during a hearing planned next month, JV Bautista, interim secretary general of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance, said:

“Why will he do it in May? Everyone, including the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Supreme Court, is asking if he has evidence to back his claims … What he is doing is a political striptease. This is like a burlesque when he would undress slowly. But he won’t be able to do that because he merely invented everything.

“We are confident that this speculation he merely picked up somewhere cannot be proven. I cannot fathom where he got this.”

Uncharted territory

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, justice committee chair, earlier said he planned to invite the magistrates to the probe. He said the matter of separation of powers should not be an issue in this case because the Senate inquiry is not about disciplining the justices.

“This is not a disciplinary matter. For me, we can enact a law which can plug whatever loopholes there are,” he said on Tuesday.

In his news conference on Wednesday, Trillanes said the Senate inquiry on alleged bribery in the courts should be welcomed as it was “previously unchartered territory.”

He said he would turn over to the Supreme Court all information he would be able to gather in the course of the Senate inquiry, and also asked what the judiciary had done about the alleged corruption all these years.

“We know the sale of decisions has been happening all these years. Did they do something about it? The practice proliferated because nothing was done about it. The exposé of this anomaly is an opportunity for us to help them,” Trillanes said.

He added that the judiciary might not have taken action earlier because it had not gotten any evidence.

Dismissal

In September 2008, the Supreme Court sacked CA Justice Vicente Roxas for allegedly taking an undue interest in a case and for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct. The dismissal came following a bribery controversy.

Other justices involved in the same controversy were either found guilty of simple misconduct, conduct unbecoming a justice and failure to act promptly on incidents.

Originally posted as of 11:01 PM | Wednesday, March 15, 2015

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TAGS: administrative case, Antonio Trillanes IV, Aquilino Pimentel III, congressional inquiry, Court of Appeals, Department of Interior and Local governments, Department of Justice, disciplinary action, Francisco Acosta, Graft and Corruption, Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay, Jose Reyes Jr., Judiciary, justice for sale, legislative inquiry, Makati City, mayor, News, Office of the Ombudsman, overpricing, Philippine Congress, preventive suspension, Senate, suspension order, temporary restraining order, writ of preliminary injunction
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