SolGen Calida wants Justice Carpio to inhibit from West Philippine Sea case

Marje Pelayo   •   July 1, 2019   •   1083

Solicitor General Jose Calida (L) and SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (R)

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has filed a motion before the Supreme Court (SC) asking SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio to inhibit from participating in the petition urging the Duterte government to protect the marine resources in the West Philippine Sea.

Solicitor General Jose Calida cited ‘personal bias’ and ‘manifest partiality’ against Carpio for his active participation in the South China Sea Arbitral Proceedings in 2016 and for being critical of the Duterte Administration’s actions in relation to the issue in the West Philippine Sea.

Calida insisted that Carpio’s representation of the Philippines in the International Arbitral Tribunal is enough to disqualify him from holding the case.

In May, the SC upheld the Writ for Kalikasan petition filed by a fisherfolk group in Palawan and Zambales seeking protection of marine resources in the West Philippine Sea particularly the Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal; the Ayungin Shoal, and the Panganiban Reef also known as the Mischief Reef.

Among the respondents in the case are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); the Department of Agriculture; the Philippine Navy (PN); the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG); the Philippine National Police (PNP); and the Department of Justice (DOJ), which according to the petitioners, failed to protect the country’s territory from irresponsible fishing and damaging activities of Chinese fishermen.

The group also cited the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision considering Ayungin Shoal and the Panganiban Reef as part of the Philippines exclusive economic zone (EEZ) while based on Republic Act 95-22 also known as the Philippine Baselines Law, Panatag Shoal is also part of the country’s EEZ.

On the other hand, the SC cannot force a magistrate to inhibit from a case, said Attorney George Erwin Garcia of the Pamantasang ng Lungsod ng Maynila College of Law.

According to Garcia, it is the magistrate’s personal decision whether to inhibit or not from any case.

“It’s an absolute discretion din ng mismong huwes, ng mismong judge or justice na pinapa-inhibit ( It’s an absolute discretion of the judge or justice being requested to inhibit). Walang pwedeng mag-force sa kanya (Nobody can force him). It is best left to the sole discretion and wisdom of the judge subject of the motion for inhibition,” Garcia said.

Likewise, it is also inappropriate to cite “personal bias” as ground for inhibition.

The Canon 3 or impartiality provision of the New Code of Judicial Conduct states that: “Judges shall disqualify themselves from participating in any proceedings in which they are unable to decide the matter impartially or in which it may appear to a reasonable observer that they are unable to decide the matter impartially.”

These reasons include cases wherein the judge “has actual bias or prejudice concerning a party or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceedings; has served as a lawyer or was a material witness in the matter in controversy; has a member of his or her family who has an economic interest in the outcome of the matter in controversy; and has served as executor, trustee or lawyer in the case or matter in controversy.

“Minsan, to a certain extent, sasabihin, ‘ka-classmate kasi ‘yan nung college,’ o kaya ‘ninong kasi ‘yan nung anak nung lawyer’ (Sometimes, to a certain extent, people will say: ‘They’re classmates in college’ or ‘he is a godfather to the lawyer’s child’). So, madaming mga reason kung bakit pinapa-inhibit (A lot of reasons can be used to petition (a judge) to inhibit),” Garcia noted.

 Pero ‘yung pagiging partial, ‘yung pagiging bias, that’s the least ground that you can use. Kasi parang napaka-personal kasi noon. So meaning, kung ako ‘yun, ‘yung parang bias lang, perception of bias, mukhang hindi tamang ground for inhibition, (But being partial or biased, that is the least ground that you can use because it’ll appear very personal. So meaning, if I were in his shoes, if they use only perception of bias, I think that is inappropriate ground for inhibition),” he added.

As of this writing, Carpio has yet to respond on the issue. – with details from Harlene Delgado.

Group wants OSG out of sedition trial vs VP Robredo et al

Marje Pelayo   •   August 19, 2019

Vice President Leni Robredo

MANILA, Philippines – The group Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) filed a motion on Monday (August 19) before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against the participation of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in the trial of the sedition case against Vice President Leni Robredo and other members of the opposition.

According to the 12-page motion filed by former Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, they want the DOJ to disqualify the OSG from the preliminary investigation of the case.

The OSG stands as the legal counsel of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

FLAG alleged that the OSG did questionable participation in the drafting the affidavit of witness Peter Joemel Advincula alias Bikoy.

The group cited the Urbano doctrine and the other decisions of the Supreme Court (SC) which ruled that the OSG is banned from participating in any criminal proceedings.

The OSG has yet to respond to the issue. – MNP (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

DOJ launches preliminary investigation into VP Robredo’s sedition case

Marje Pelayo   •   August 9, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched the preliminary investigation on the complaints of sedition filed against Vice President Leni Robredo and some members of the opposition.

Present in the investigation were respondents who belong to the free legal assistance group namely Atty. Erin Tañada; Atty. Chel.Diokno; Atty. Florin Hilbay; Atty. Philip Sawali and former Supreme Court spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te.

Also present was primary respondent and witness in the case, Peter Joemel Advincula alias Bikoy.

Robredo and 35 others were being linked to the so-called ‘Project Sodoma’ or a plot by opposition groups to oust President Rodrigo Duterte. Part of such plan was the release of the narco-video series ‘Ang Totoong Narcolist.’

Representing the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) was Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda which the opposition argued as questionable.

“Ang OSG (ay) tribune of the people ‘no. Hindi tuta ng Malacañang, (OSG is the tribune of the people not a puppet of Malacañang),” noted Atty. Rene Saguisag, the legal counsel of opposition senator Risa Hontiveros.

“It should not sandbag itself into becoming a defender of the attempt of the administration to eliminate all dissent and dissenters,” he added.

Other respondents also aired their disappointment over Miranda representing the police.

“Inamin naman nila na nakialam sila sa paggawa ng salaysay ni Advincula, (They admitted their part in writing Advincula’s statement),” Diokno, for his part, said.

“Iyon ay sa palagay ko isang lehitimong tanong. Sino ba talaga at bakit ba talaga ano ba talaga nasa likod nitong kasong ito? (The question now is: Who is behind this case, what is his reason and why?)” he added.

“Noong tayo po ay solicitor general, hindi ko naisip na makialam sa investigation ng criminal matters dahil iyong power ng OSG in criminal cases ay limited doon sa appeal na mawawala iyong independence ng opisina na iyon kung sa lebel pa lang ng imbestigasyon ay nakikialam na sila,” argued former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.

(When I was solicitor general, I did not think of meddling with the investigation of criminal matters because the power of the OSG when it comes to criminal cases is limited only to the appeal. The independence of the office will be tainted if it will intervene with the investigation.)

Miranda refused to make a statement to the media but she did mention a provision written in Executive Order 292 which allows the OSG to “act and represent the Republic and/or the people before any court, tribunal, body or commission in any matter, action or proceeding which, in his opinion, affects the welfare of the people as the ends of justice may require.”

The respondents were supposed to submit their respective counter-affidavits but according to Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas they have received 15 motions already from the respondents.

Torrevillas heads the DOJ Panel.

Most of the respondents, Torrevilas said, have been requesting for a suspension of the trial until the latter gathers evidence from the CIDG.

The DOJ Panel gave the CIDG 10 days to produce the evidence and comply such as video footages of contained in a USB.

In case the motions are resolved, the respondents have until September 6 to submit their counter-affidavits.

Meanwhile, supporters of Robredo were determined despite the heavy rains.

“Hindi sedisyon ang sabihin ang katotohanan kaya narito po ang mamamayan na magpahayag para sabihin sa (Telling the truth is not an act of sedition, that’s why we’re here to tell the) Department of Justice: Drop the charges,” argued former DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman. – MNP (with reports from Mai Bermudez)

Supreme Court imposes fines on MWSS, Maynilad, Manila Water

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and water concessionaires, Manila Water and Maynilad to pay fines for their non-compliance of the Clean Water Act.

In its decision, the SC fined Manila Water and Maynilad both with more than P900 million. The same amount of fine is required for Manila Water to be jointly paid with the MWSS for the period of May 7, 2009 until the date of promulgation.

The concessionaires are required to pay the fine within 15 days from receipt of a copy of the ruling.

From receipt of the decision until the fine is fully paid, they shall also pay the amount of P322,000 per day for every day of their non-compliance with the Clean Water Act.

The SC added that a legal interest of six percent per annum will also be applied.

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