Friday, August 01, 2008

Meralco-GSIS proceedings raise eyebrows

There are some facts in the controversial Meralco-GSIS case that have raised my eyebrows, mainly because they are either so peculiar, or unusual, or they are not in accordance with ordinary court-practice experience.
If you haven’t been updated with the latest developments, there are accusations that court of appeals Justice Jose L. Sabio Jr. purportedly named the price of P50-million, in exchange for changing or reversing his position, and in effct, favor Meralco.
This is according to one Francis de Borja, a businessman who does not deny being a close friend of Manolo Lopez, one of the controllers of Meralco, and of a partner of The Firm lawyering for Meralco.
On the other hand, Justice Jose Sabio alleges that he has been offered P10-million by de Borja to inhibit (dis-engage) himself form the Meralco-GSIS case.
By the way, Justicre Jose L. Sabio has a narration of the events and it is in the internet
Undeniably, the juicier part of the Meralco-GSIS legal row is the bribery aspect.
I will not disagree with the contention that bribery should be the main subject of the investigation by the Supreme Court.
Bribery is a serious matter.
However, bribery probe is difficult because transactions are always in cash, like jueteng, masiao, swertres. No paper trail.
So let me leave the bribery aspect aside.
The facts though, bother me.
There is a position paper purportedly coming from Meralco counsel ex-solicitor general Simeon Marcelo, circulating in the internet
The paper holds the position that Justice Jose Sabio should refrain from handling the Meralco-GSIS case.
However, in the course of presenting his position, Marcelo gives out some revealing facts.
First, Meralco’s petition before the court of appeals was filed on May 29, 2008.
Upon the filing of the petition, or very immediately after, a temporary restraining order (T.R.O.) was issued.
Under the rules in the court of appeals, a temporary restraining order has a lifetime of sixty (60) days.
Assuming that the T.R.O. was issued on the day the petition was filed, or on May 29, 2008, the T.R.O. expired last July 28, 2008.
Marcelo states that the court of appeals eighth division, with Justice Roxas as ponente, rendered a decision dated July 23, 2008 and released the following day July 24, 2008.
This means that a decision on the case was rendered even before the lapse of the sixty-day period of the T.R.O.
We know that a T.R.O. means “status quo”.
This is akin to that moment in the “statue dance” where the music stops, and everybody halts like a statue.
Status quo means “freeze. ” No one moves.
There are two things that happen upon the lapse of the T.R.O. (after the sixtieth day)
Either the court does nothing.
This means that the T.R.O. is no longer in effect, and the respondent---the other party---can “resume dancing”, and do what it wants to do.
Or the court orders the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction.
The effect of this writ is to continue the effectivity of the T.R.O.
But in this Meralco-GSIS case, none of these two “normal” occurrences happened.
Instead, a DECISION of the case was rendered.
Worse, it was rendered BEFORE the lapse of the effectivity of the 60-day T.R.O.
This is highly unusual. Uncharacteristically speedy.
To me, this is the one that raises eyebrows.
But I can venture a technical but simplistic explanation: Whether deliberately or not, the rendering of the decision had a crucial “pre-emptive” effect.
In our dialect: “Gi-unhan.”
(I’ll blog next time….)

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