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  EDITORIAL

Criminals in robes?



Soldier-turned mutineer and now senator, Antonio Trillanes IV has shocked the Philippine justice system with a claim that Vice President Jejomar Binay and his family had paid three Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals several millions of pesos (some reports state P25 million to each justice) for the issuance of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).
This TRO was to stop the Ombudsman suspension of Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay in connection with pending graft charges against him. Trillanes, in fact, even filed a resolution seeking a Senate investigation into the matter as he stood pat on his “expose” based on claims of an alleged witness. Trillanes also alleged that Binay gave additional millions of pesos for the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the Court of Appeals.
Mayor Binay immediately filed libel complaint against the senator even as the three CA Associate Justices he had reportedly implicated – Jose Reyes Jr., Francisco Acosta and Eduardo Peralta Jr. vehemently denied the allegations as they warned the senator against baseless accusations. Reyes stressed the TRO and the preliminary injunction “were issued by the Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals, acting as a collegiate body, after observing a meticulous, impartial and judicious evaluation of prevailing laws, jurisprudence, and evidence presented by the parties.”
Malacanang said it was deferring the case to the Supreme Court which has jurisdiction over the matter.
Arthur Villaraza, whom Trillanes accused of facilitating the bribes, challenged the senator to show proof to support his “libelous claim.” His law firm said – “Villaraza & Angangco vehemently denies the allegations of Senator Trillanes against Pancho Villaraza regarding the decision of the Court of Appeals on the Binay injunction. Mayor Junjun Binay is not a client of the firm, and specifically, the firm does not represent the mayor in the cases filed against him. In the spirit of fairness and in accordance with due process, we challenge Senator Trillanes to reveal who his ‘reliable sources’ are, and more importantly to produce proof to support his libelous statements,” the statement added.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), meanwhile, said the Senate does not have the power to investigate the CA justices, and said the senator must file his complaint against the justices before the Supreme Court. “If they have evidence, we will help them. But it should be hard evidence and not hearsay. If there’s none, then they should stop the insinuation that will destroy the judiciary as an institution,” said Vicente Joyas, the IBP national president. Joyas added that the national organization of lawyers will initiate its own inquiry into the bribery allegations and would invite Trillanes to shed light on his accusations.
There have been accusations in the past on alleged justices in robes acting like criminals and whose decisions are tainted with suspicions of bribery. There should be an impartial investigation on the allegations of Trillanes. The senator must have something up his sleeves that would hold out in court or he would be in trouble. In the meantime, the media should also be cautioned against becoming witting tools for political grandstanding and personal agendas.



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