Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday said the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong was part of the campaign to cleanse and save the image of the judiciary.
Ong was sacked on Tuesday after he was found guilty of dishonesty and gross misconduct by the High Court.
Sereno described the tribunal’s action as “saving the image of the judiciary and for the country.”
“We have to go through this process. We have no choice but to go through housecleaning, even if it’s painful to some of us,” she said.
Sereno made the statements shortly after delivering her keynote speech during the launch of the Continuous Trial System in Criminal Cases for Pilot Volunteer Courts at Manila Hotel.
SC Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. agreed with Sereno.
“Everything we do is for the good of the judiciary and country,” Velasco said.
Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes, meanwhile, downplayed the effects of Ong’s dismissal but he urged his colleagues “to work harder.”
The SC dismissed Ong because of his links to suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang said the tribunal’s decision will not have a chilling effect on the anti-graft court.
“But the decision of SC will have a strong effect, not only [on]Sandiganbayan justices, but [on the]judiciary as well. It gives a very strong message,” Tang added.
“So, we go back to the basic which is in the Constitution—that a public office is a public trust and all public officials and employees must be accountable at all times,” she said.
According to Tang, the Sandiganbayan is yet to receive a copy of the SC decision.
“We have to look at the decision although based on the report yesterday [Tuesday], it’s supposed to be immediately executory. While that may be so, it’s not yet final. [If that is not yet] final, he has the remedy of filing a motion for reconsideration,” she said.
Several Catholic bishops also on Wednesday lauded the SC for sacking Ong.
In an interview, Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros said Ong got justice as he expressed dismay that public officials like the sacked magistrate who are supposed to protect the interest of the public appeared to be the ones doing anomalous acts.
Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said the decision of the High Court manifested that the justice system still works effectively and showed “that nobody is above the law.”
“If people are guilty, they should face the consequences of their actions,” he noted.
Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez described the decision as “just.”
“It is the proper thing to do against public officials who betray their sworn duties,” he said.
Retired SC Justice Roberto Abad also noted that the SC ruling on Ong shows the SC can stand firmly against wrongdoing.