SC revokes protection order given to Korean fugitive who helped build PH Arena
The Supreme Court has revoked the protection order that a Manila court last year accorded a Korean fugitive wanted for fund misuse in his homeland, ruling that his situation does not warrant such privilege even if Malacañang itself had granted the foreigner provisional liberty.
Voting 13-0, the high court en banc junked the writ of amparo that Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 47 Judge Paulino Gallegos issued in favor of Korean national Ja Hoon Ku in March 2014, defying the Supreme Court’s order against the enforcement of such grant.
Given the Manila judge’s curious actions, the Supreme Court also ordered the Office of the Court Administrator to file administrative charges against Gallegos for disobeying the court’s temporary restraining orders (TRO) against his assailed issuances favoring Ku.
The Supreme Court had no information on Ku’s current whereabouts.
Ruling on three consolidated cases that the Bureau of Immigration (BI) filed against Ku and Gallegos, the court said the Korean “was not entitled to the writ,” as only to victims of enforced disappearance should be accorded this privilege.
Ku is known to be among the contractors who helped build the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, the world’s largest domed arena owned by the Iglesia Ni Cristo.
“It can be readily discerned that the RTC’s grant of the privilege of the writ of amparo was improper in this case as Ku and his whereabouts were never concealed, and as the alleged threats to his life, liberty and security were unfounded and unsubstantiated,” said the high court in its ruling, a summary of which was released Tuesday.
“It is to be emphasized that the fundamental function of the writ of amparo is to cause the disclosure of details concerning the extrajudicial killing or the enforced disappearance of an aggrieved party. As Ku and his whereabouts were never hidden, there was no need for the issuance of the privilege of the writ of amparo in the case at bar,” the court said.
The court also deemed unfounded Ku’s claims that “he fears for his life and feels the serious danger of being detained for a long period of time without any cause, and that he fears that the BI will fabricate criminal cases against him to hold him under detention.”
The high court likewise said Ku “is guilty of forum shopping,” having sought remedies against the deportation not just before the RTC but even the Office of the President.
Ku sought the amparo privilege before the Manila regional trial court in January last year, following his arrest by the BI. He had been taken into custody after the BI ordered his deportation for being an undesirable alien, in response to South Korea’s request citing Ku’s criminal liabilities back home.
The BI arrested Ku several weeks after the Interpol office in Seoul asked Manila’s assistance in December 2013 for “the location and deportation of Ku for arbitrarily spending money” earmarked as reserve funds of a firm called Phildip Korea Co. Ltd. Earlier reports pegged the amount at $200 million.
While in BI custody, Ku won a temporary protection order from Gallegos’ sala on Jan. 28, 2014, while hearing his amparo petition, placing him under the custody of the Philippine National Red Cross and ordering the Philippine National Police (PNP) “to protect Ku and his immediate family.”
The following day, the judge ordered the transfer of Ku’s custody to the PNP Police Security and Protection Group.
This was when the BI went to the high court, winning a TRO on Feb 4, 2014 stopping the protection order and transfer of Ku’s custody to the PNP. In issuing the TRO, the Supreme Court already “intimated on the possibility of misuse by Ku of the writ of amparo given that he was validly arrested.”
The high court issued another TRO on March 18 of the same year in response to a separate plea- the BI’s second on the Ku case- questioning Gallegos’ dismissal of the BI’s motion to junk the amparo petition. The second TRO stopped the RTC from holding further proceedings on the amparo case.
Faced with the TROs, Ku appealed his deportation anew before the Office of the President on Feb. 25, 2014. Pending this, the Manila court granted his petition for a writ of amparo on March 14. Five days later, Malacañang issued an order “granting him provisional liberty only until Aug. 31, or until his appeal [to his deportation] is resolved.”
It was at this point that the BI decided to file a third petition before the high court.
In ruling against Ku, the high court said there was “no basis… to substantiate his fears” of being held by the BI indefinitely and under false pretenses.
The high tribunal also recommended the filing of an administrative case against Gallegos, as he still granted Ku a writ of amparo despite the TROs the high court had issued against the lower court proceedings.
“The court observes that Judge Gallegos knowingly disregarded the court’s directives,” the high court said.
It said the TROs it had issued “should have alerted Judge Gallegos to proceed with caution and restraint in granting the privilege of the writ of amparo.”
“And yet, despite having knowledge of the Court’s pronouncements, Judge Gallegos proceeds to grant the said privilege,” said the high court.
“Judge Gallegos should know that judges must respect the orders and decisions of high tribunals, especially the Supreme Court from which all other courts take their bearings. A resolution of the Supreme Court is not to be construed as a mere request nor should it be complied with partially, inadequately or selectively,” said the high court.
The high court noted how Gallegos violated the code of conduct among magistrates, having defied a superior court.
“When the judge himself becomes the transgressor of the law which he is sworn to apply, he places his office in disrepute, encourages disrespect for the law and impairs public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary itself,” said the court.