Baguio City: The Court of Appeals (CA) on Monday ordered its committee on ethics and special concerns to look into allegations that two of its members received millions of pesos in exchange for a temporary restraining order (TRO) that favored Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay.
Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. directed the ethics panel to convene and conduct its probe on the allegations of Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th against Associate Justices Jose Reyes and Francisco Acosta.
In a one-page letter dated April 16, 2015, Reyes told Justice Mariflor Punzalan-Castillo, chairperson of the ethics committee, to conduct a thorough probe and to finish the investigation in one month.
“You are directed to conduct a thorough investigation on the enclosed subject matter and to submit a report and recommendation of your findings within thirty (30) days from notice,” Reyes said in his letter.
The findings of the panel will be submitted to Reyes for approval before it is forwarded to the Supreme Court for its final disposition.
Under the Internal Rules of the CA, it is the ethics committee that investigates justices accused of any wrongdoing. The members of the panel are Justices Jane Lantion, Franchito Diamante, Manuel Barrios and Acosta. But Acosta had said he will not take part in the investigation.
Senate President Franklin Drilon on Sunday said the chamber will look into Trillanes’ claim that Justices Jose Reyes and Acosta received P25 million each for issuing a TRO and a writ of preliminary injunction that stopped the Office of the Ombudsman from suspending Binay for graft.
But justices at the appellate court disputed Drilon, saying the Senate has no authority to investigate members of the judiciary because of the principle of separation of powers.
“The CA is under the Supreme Court and we are not under the Senate. The law on separation of powers is very clear that the Senate has no jurisdiction over us,” a CA justice who asked not to be identified told The Manila Times.
Under Article 8 of the Judicial Department of the 1987 Constitution, only the SC en banc has the power to discipline erring justices, judges and court employees.
In the same manner, senators and congressmen can only be disciplined by their respective chambers.
This was echoed by the In-tegrated Bar of the Philip- pines (IBP).
“They cannot force the justices to attend. The plan of the Senate to push through with the investigation is a circumvention of the constitution. In the first place, what would be the purpose of the investigation? They must observe the constitutional provision, the SC justices are the ones who has the authority to probe the CA justices and lower court judges,” IBP National President Jose Joyas said.
“Check and balance is defined in the Constitution. It pertains to the power of the president over legislation, the power of the Senate to remove justices for impeachment. The Supreme Court exercises check and balance by reviewing the actuation of the other branch of the government if there’s grave abuse of discretion,” Joyas said.