Intriguing and varying standards of ‘delicadeza’
I was intrigued by what former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban wrote in his column “Guilty but not jailed” (Opinion, 1/25/15). On the Sandiganbayan (SBN) justices’ (namely: Justices Roland Jurado, Alexander Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Estoeta of the fifth division) request for self-recusal from the pork barrel case of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Panganiban said that the SBN en banc rejected the same for being bereft of any valid reason. From other reports, we learned that the three would oblige and go on hearing that case willy-nilly.
Panganiban put it quite succinctly: “By the nature of their jobs, magistrates must be impervious to what I call the ‘plague of ships’: kinship, relationship, friendship and fellowship. If they are not, they must resign from their posts, not just inhibit.” I do recall that some members of the Supreme Court no less “inhibited” themselves from participating in the disciplinary case against former SBN justice Gregory Ong, now dismissed for graft and corruption. Supreme Court Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro and Diosdado Peralta unilaterally recused themselves from that case due to past “friendship or fellowship” with Ong during the time they were together at the SBN.
Under the basic tenets cited by Panganiban, those justices should have resigned for not being “impervious… to the plague of ‘ships’”! It was a categorical admission that they could not rise above personal relationships—evidently not only with Ong but with God-knows-who-else in many other cases before them! What assurance is there that they would not take a private peek through the proverbial blindfolds over their eyes? Are not judges and justices supposed to be “above suspicion” like Caesar’s wife? So, what are they still doing in the highest courts of the land? Shouldn’t they be taking the high road on that one? Obviously, standards of delicadeza are very flexible and vary according to rank and title!
But then again (just being a little makulit about it), what if the three SBN justices eventually absolve Jinggoy of all the charges? Will we be hearing them say, “See, we told you so?” It is quite elementary. You cannot legislate or “force” impartiality on anyone who has already admitted his partiality. So what’s the antidote to this pickle now?
—ROGELIO S. CANDELARIO, [email protected]
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