When to inhibit
To inhibit is not applicable just in the judiciary. In the corporate world, whenever an issue is brought to the Board for decision-making, directors who have a possible conflict of interest have to declare such and recuse themselves from the discussion and decision on that issue. It may be that the matter has to do with contracts with enterprises in which they or their family have pecuniary interest or in a competitive position vis-à-vis the corporation. If the matter involves disciplinary action on a senior executive, the directors have to declare any familial or professional links with the person concerned. In cases where it is the director that has brought charges against the senior executive, it is only appropriate that he does not participate in the discussion and leaves it to the other directors to discuss and decide the merits of the case based on the information provided which may include the charges made by the director who inhibited himself. In business and industry, fairness and justice is assured by the directors exhibiting behavior that leads to a generally accepted resolution of the case because the accuser is not the judge. It is rare also for any disagreements to be aired publicly as such could lead to a reputational loss for the enterprise.
It is for these reasons that businessmen are saddened by the state of affairs in the Supreme Court, whose credibility has been damaged by the actuations of some justices seemingly bent on removing a Chief Justice, whom they have personal disagreements or distasteful encounters. Not only have they made accusations in a Congressional hearing, they then proceeded to participate in a Court proceeding against the very Chief Justice that they had made accusations there of. And to think there are specific provisions on the need to inhibit for judges as well as established jurisprudence.
When it comes to the judiciary, the inhibition of judges is grounded on the party/litigant’s right to due process. The bill of rights provides that no man should be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. And inherent to this principle is the right to be heard by a disinterested and impartial judge.
The first paragraph of Section 1, Rule 137 of the Revised Rules of Court lays down specific parameters for the disqualification of a Judge trying a case. (To Inhibit or Not To Inhibit, J. Edgardo P. Cruz-Court of Appeals website). Thus, if the Judge, his wife or child has pecuniary interest in the case, or if he is related to either party within the sixth decree of consanguinity, or if he is related to counsel within the fourth decree or if he has been an executor, administrator, guardian, trustee, or counsel for a party in the case, or if he has presided over the case in an inferior Court, and his ruling or decision is the subject of review, the Judge must recuse himself from the proceedings. When the grounds for the motion for inhibition is based not squarely on the situations outline in the earlier first paragraph, the provision on voluntary recusal in the second paragraph of the same rule sets in.
The article further states: The Supreme Court has had the occasion to emphasize that the decision should be based on the rational and logical assessment of the circumstances prevailing in the case before him (People of the Philippines vs. Ong, G.R. Nos. 162130-39, May 05, 2006). As the issue is primarily a matter of conscience and sound discretion, judges should be circumspect in resolving questions about their own competence and impartiality. A fine balance must be struck between maintaining faith and confidence in the integrity of the judicial system on one hand, and protecting the system against manipulative manuevers on the other.
In conclusion, the article postulates: In the final analysis, the fundamental guidepost is the principle that a Judge should at all times be like Ceasar’s wife–above suspicion. Any appearance of impropriety should, therefore, be avoided because appearance, they say, is a manisfestation of reality. Further and equally important is that judges are a reflection of the institution they represent. Negative impression of judges ultimately taint the integrity and independence of the judiciary and the legal system as a whole.
How I wish the Supreme Court justices had followed the lead of Justice Antonio Carpio, the best Chief Justice this country never had but should have. He declined the invitation of Congress to testifiy at the impeachment hearings against the sitting Chief Justice avoiding being part of a spectacle of justices airing grievances best left to be resolved in the Chamber rather than publicly. The televised affair showing justices with their revealing facial expressions and body language ripped apart the Curtain that protected the Supreme Court and led to a loss of respect for the highest Court of the Land.
In the quo warranto petition of the Solicitor General who reports to the President of the Republic, Justice Carpio dissented arguing that impeachment is the only way to remove a sitting Chief Justice and the grant of the petition would have for reaching implications on the judiciary (and may I add to other Constitutional bodies, as it offers a shortcut). Six justices were asked to inhibit–Teresita de Castro, Noel Tijam, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza and Samuel Martires–all had shown the world their antagonism against the Chief Justice in the Congressional hearings) and they did not.
To complete their agenda, the Supreme Court are asking the deposed Chief Justice why she should not be disbarred? Maybe the public should ask why the six justices should not be disbarred?