When to in­hibit

Manila Bulletin - - Business News -

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?

melito.jr@gmail.com

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