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First time SC addressed issues in ‘ex parte’ letters

12:19 AM February 16, 2016

WORKING AS a paralegal in law firms for so many years, I had come across decisions and resolutions of the Supreme Court that always made me giddy whenever I traced a case raffled to one of its divisions and later moved to another division, and then to some other “special” division, ad nauseam! Clueless lawyers just presume all that movement is in accordance with the Court’s little-known “internal rules and procedures.”

At any rate, lawyers in general have come to accept the dictum that regardless of which division finally renders a decision, it is to be regarded as a rendition of the Supreme Court itself. They really have no choice but to rely on the wisdom, integrity and honesty of whoever the justice (ponente) might be tasked to write the decision, so God help them!

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Then I stumbled upon a mind-blowing and labyrinthine 2012 decision in A.M. No. 10-11-1-SC [“In re: Letters of Atty. Estelito P. Mendoza re: G.R. No. 178083, Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines vs Philippine Airlines Inc. (PAL), et al.”]. In that case a full Supreme Court took pains to respond to and address various concerns meticulously raised in four ex parte (read: behind one’s opponent’s back) letters of Mendoza complaining about the virtual musical chairs going on in that Court and impugning the authority of one division or the other to issue resolutions adverse to his client, Philippine Airlines. Apparently, Mendoza was not too happy with the last forum—a “lesser” Supreme Court than the en banc? It seemed so important to him that his case was handled by the “proper” division!

Quite uncharacteristically, the Supreme Court en banc took up the matter with alarm as if some serious harm had been done. And after painstakingly going through the movement of that case from one division to another and then to another still, and from one ponente to another and then to another still, it resolved to grant practically everything Mendoza had asked for in his letters: to vacate the “finality” of a division’s decision adverse to PAL for having been entered in violation of its “internal rules and procedure”! The Court said the “authority” to write finis to that case did not belong to that division but to another!

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But after all is said and done, one fact sticks out like a sore thumb: No other practicing lawyer has been known to ever enjoy that kind of attention from the Supreme Court which normally frowns upon mere suggestions that any of its divisions had acted less than aboveboard. But perhaps Mendoza is really a sui generis. Thus, where other lawyers’ ex parte submissions just routinely get “noted without action” by the Supreme Court, its acceptance of and fast action on Mendoza’s letters (four in all!) did smack of too much “bending-over-backwards”! If that was not “very special treatment,” I don’t know what is!

—JANNO MARKO MONTECRISTO, [email protected]

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TAGS: law, lawyer, letter, opinion, SC, Supreme Court
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