Alvarez’s point re ponente in ‘Ilocos Six’ case valid
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez created a firestorm when he called three justices of the Court of Appeals “idiots” for ordering the release of six Ilocos Norte officials detained for not answering questions during a House committee’s investigation of corruption in the provincial government (“Bongbong slams House defiance of court order,” News, 6/16/17).
To be sure, this is not the first time a member of Congress has called justices “idiots.” Recall that the late senator Miriam Santiago once expressed her disgust when none of the incumbent justices of the Supreme Court then wanted her to sit with them, much less, be their chief justice: “Who wants to be in the company of idiots, anyway?!”
Can the Court of Appeals punish Alvarez for contempt? As in the case of Santiago where the Supreme Court let the slander slide and left it to the Senate leadership to deal with her petulance, self-deprecating separation of powers is likely to be stressed more than hubris in order to save face.
Be that as it may, we think the Speaker was right. The provincial officials concerned were obviously lying through their teeth when they asserted they could not remember anything about the anomalous transaction. Whoever advised them to feign ignorance then apparently forgot the favorite constitutional provision among scoundrels: The right against self-incrimination. No one gets jailed or detained for invoking that right. Lying is altogether a different ball game.
Incidentally, Alvarez raised a very valid point during a teleradyo interview: The ponente of that release order being the wife of a former associate in the law firm of Estelito Mendoza, counsel for the detained officials, should have disqualified herself from the case. To those with enough common sense, her recusal was a no-brainer, and yet she stuck to it like a barnacle. How many judges or justices are deliberately concealing relationships with parties or their counsels to pervert justice?
Wasn’t it Mendoza himself who cited the late US Supreme Court justice Benjamin Cardozo (Inquirer.net, 6/1/17) in his bid to have a Sandiganbayan justice disqualified on grounds of some deep-seated bias: “Deep below consciousness are other forces, the likes and dislikes, the predilections and prejudices, the complex of instincts and emotions, and habits and convictions, which make the man, whether he be a litigant or judge”? In a word, delicadeza.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. Mendoza seemed quite comfortable with that Court of Appeals ponente ruling the roost, never mind suspicions that her husband might have exerted influence on her decision-making prerogative. The Supreme Court should look into such misconduct, motu proprio, and impose sanctions on the justice concerned as a warning to all members of the bench.
GEORGE DEL MAR,
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