Saturday, October 24, 2009

Defying court orders is bad

Recently, I wrote about a Supreme Court directive to the Ombudsman to file formal criminal charges in the Sandiganbayan against Valencia Mayor Rodolfo V. Gonzales, Jr., and his treasurer, Rolando Obanana and two private contractors.
This came after the Supreme Court ruled there is sufficient basis to hold Gonzales and company for trial for violating the anti graft and corrupt practices act.
They are to be charged because Gonzales ordered the release of public funds to a private contractor despite a previous attachment order issued by the regional trial court prohibiting such release.
Subsequently, comments were raised defending Gonzales.
Defenders of Mayor Gonzales argue that it was a damn-if-you-do-damn-if-you-don’t situation.
They said that Gonzales would have been sued either way, anyway.
If Gonzales did not release the public funds to the contractor, he would have been sued by the contractor for contractual breach, it was argued.
If Gonzales released the public funds to the contractor, he was sued for graft.
So either way, Gonzales faced lawsuits, defenders said.
This is such a tricky argument.
First. Under the rules of court, if there is an attachment order issued by the court against a certain property, there are legal ways to discharge this attachment.
The person against whom the attachment is issued, can file what is called counter-attachment bond.
The purpose of this counter attachment bond is to provide a security, to ensure that the judgment in favor of the person seeking the attachment, is satisfied.
The question now is: Did Gonzales file a counter-attachment bond to discharge the attachment? (Its not in the Supreme Court decision) If not, why not?
Why did he take the law into his own hands, and proceeded to defy the court order by releasing public funds to a private contractor despite a court prohibition?
There is no excuse to defy a lawful court order.
The real issue here is the observance of the rule of law.
If we advocate defiance of court orders, as Gonzales did, there will be chaos and anarchy in society.
Second. Why should Gonzales be afraid of a civil suit for contractual breach? Gonzales has a complete defense against a civil suit for breach of contract.
His Exhibit “1” would have been the court attachment order.
In other words, Gonzales’ ready defense is that, he couldn’t pay the contractor because he was prevented by a lawful order of the court.
Third. Which would Gonzales prefer to face, a mere civil suit for contractual breach (of which he has a ready defense), or a criminal action for graft?
Isn’t the answer clear?
Fourth. If Gonzales was not agreeable with the court attachment order, did he question the attachment order in a higher court by certiorari?
If not, why not?
He could even have asked for a T.R.O./injunction in the higher court to prevent the attachment order from being enforced. Was this done?
Fifth. By defying a lawful court order, Gonzales' behavior is contumacious.
He can be held in contempt of court for disobeying a lawful court order.
Sixth. Gonzales cannot claim good faith by alleging that he was merely following an opinion by the provincial attorney.
Which should be followed: a mere opinion by a provincial attorney, or a court order?
Is the answer still debatable, or is the answer clear?
So why did he insist in paying the private contractor, in the face of a court prohibition?
What could be the reason?
That is a 64-dollar question.
This (damn-if-you-do-damn-if-you-don’t) “dilemma-defense” being peddled to excuse Gonzales’ defiance of a court attachment order, does not hold water.
It is even insulting to the mind.
Elected officials should lead by example as followers---not violators---of court orders.
Elected public officials, should lead in the observance of the rule of law.
For if they don't, what's the use of electing them into office?

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