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Get Real
Somersaulting Court

By Solita Collas-Monsod
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:30:00 02/27/2010

Filed Under: Judiciary (system of justice)

LAST WEEK, this column expressed concern about what was going on in the Radstock/PNCC case. A 7-6 vote had denied Radstock?s Motion for Reconsideration (MR) of the Supreme Court (SC) decision (8-4-2) which had declared the PNCC board?s recognition of a P10.7-billion liability to Marubeni (which was not in PNCC?s books) null and void; and the compromise agreement between Radstock and PNCC?which would have wiped out entirely PNCC?s asssets and leave the government holding a P36-billion bag of worthless claims?also null and void.

But almost immediately after the voting to deny the Radstock MR, one justice who had voted with the majority reportedly withdrew his vote; or at any rate, Court Administrator Midas Marquez issued a statement that there had been a change in the voting, and that there would be a re-discussion of the case by the SC en banc on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, and a new vote taken.

I had also written last week to the effect that if the original decision, written by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio were overturned, it would have negative repercussions on the reputation of the Court. So when ANC reported on Thursday evening that the Radstock MR had been turned down, by a vote of 7 to 6, it was music to my ears. More so that the original seven justices (the eighth had retired) stood their ground. The two additional votes for the dissenters were cast by the two new associate justices (Jose Perez and Jose Mendoza). Why they took special interest in a case where they did not participate in the original decision is curious.

Unfortunately, that music may be short-lived. As sure as I am sitting here typing out this column, so is my certainty that a second MR will be filed by Radstock. This, despite the statement contained in the decision denying the Radstock MR to the effect that the decision is final and that no further pleadings will be entertained.

One would think that there is nothing ambiguous about that statement. But alas, because the SC?in fairly recent times anyway?has not taken its own pronouncements seriously, it has given the wrong signal. One has only to recall the very recent ?16 municipalities case,? where the Court not only entertained a second MR, but also?when this was turned down?a third Motion for Reconsideration, at which time, third time lucky, the 16 municipalities-turned-cities got what they wanted. And if the reader will remember, the SC turned down the second MR because it was a prohibited pleading, and yet entertained the third MR, and this time gave in.

Admittedly, the ?16 municipalities case,? with a third MR entertained, is an outlier?one for the books. But entertaining second MRs has become rather the thing with the SC, in spite of its enormous case backlog?which in 2004 was 6,882 cases. (Another alas: the SC has not been reporting its case inflows, outflows, resolutions, backlogs, since then, although other courts are required to do so. Apparently, it requires transparency and accountability from everyone but themselves. Neither is it easy to get hold of the statements of assets and liabilities of the justices?sort of like putting a camel through the eye of a needle?despite the fact that these are public documents.)

The case of the Flight Attendants? and Stewards? Association of the Philippines (Fasap) against Philippine Air Lines (PAL) is another illustration. Fasap won its illegal termination case against PAL in 2008; naturally, PAL filed an MR, and it was denied in 2009?with finality, etc. etc. But PAL filed a second MR, which was entertained by the SC?and no surprise, this time PAL won. The decision came out only the other day.

I bring the Fasap/PAL case up, because the original SC decision overturning the Court of Appeals and reinstating or compensating the flight stewards and attendants (who were arbitrarily and illegally terminated) was a unanimous one?and Fasap was overjoyed because it had been fighting for its members for 10 years, and the SC decision removed a lot of their disillusionment with the system. Only for them to get screwed?again.

I bring up the case also because PAL, in order to justify its second MR, cited 12 precedent cases (not including the ?16 municipalities case?). If PAL?s research is correct (and Estelito Mendoza does his homework), one finds that the earliest case cited where the SC entertained a second MR was in 1970. The next case came 16 years later (Galman vs Sandiganbayan). And the third came after another 14 years (2000). In other words, only three second MRs were entertained in 30 years.

And then, within a space of seven years (2002-2008), nine second MRs were entertained. To that we must add the ?16 municipalities case? in 2009, and the Fasap/PAL case just two days ago. Some conscientious law student should check out these last 11 cases, find out the names of the justices and the lawyers involved, as well as the amounts involved. I bet some interesting patterns will emerge.

Thus, the remaining question is, will the SC entertain Radstock?s second motion? And having entertained it, will it hold the line in favor of the Filipino people? Abangan.

(To whom it may concern: I am not the author of an e-mail going around titled ?Why I will vote for Noynoy?Winnie Monsod.? To the real author/s: Hiding behind others is cowardly. Stand up and be counted. To everybody else: Any statement attributed to me can be very simply checked by referring to this column, or my column in BusinessWorld [Calling A Spade], or a blog under my name in GMA News.TV.)

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