Judge’s inhibition in port case sought

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The camp of businessman Michael Romero has asked a Quezon City judge to inhibit in a case involving the controversial Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI) because of his alleged biased judgment.

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In a brief message sent to reporters covering the Justice department, Romero on Monday said Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 97 Judge Bernelito Fernandez “does not want our lawyers to cross-examine the witnesses of Reghis group.”

“He [Fernandez] wants to railroad the injunction process by just asking everyone to submit the memorandum,” he added.

On May 5, Fernandez granted a temporary relief based on a filing by HCPTI President and CEO Reghis Romero 2nd and his firms R-II Builders Inc. and R-II Holdings Inc.

HCPTI is locked in a battle between father Reghis Romero 2nd and his son, Michael.

The elder Romero asked the court to nullify the Deeds of Assignment involving HCPTI presented by his son, saying these deeds were “fabricated.”

“The defendants, including all persons acting for and in their behalf, are hereby restrained from performing any and all acts using, directly or indirectly, the subject Deeds of Assignment of March 2, 2011,” Fernandez’s decision said.

Michael’s lawyers have asked the RTC judge to recuse himself from the case because of his alleged subjectivity.

“Up to now, the judge has refused to do so,” one of the lawyers said.

Fernandez also junked the younger Romero’s motion to dismiss the case.

His order will be in effect for 20 days.

Michael’s camp is claiming that Reghis ceded control of HCPTI on March 2, 2011, through two Deeds of Assignment that “fully and completely transferred” 689,258,653 shares in HCPTI’s favor.

Reghis allegedly refused to let Michael’s lawyers cross-examine the witnesses of Reghis’ group and is accused of railroading the injunction process by asking everyone to just submit memorandums.

The younger Romero’s sentiment was echoed by a consumer group that has been leading the fight against “justice for sale” in the judiciary.

Perfecto Tagalog, who heads the Coalition of Filipino Consumers (CFC), said he is surprised that a Quezon City judge issued a recent ruling that purportedly “taints the integrity” of the justice system.

“We were surprised that the judge would give a decision that would put his ethics in question” Tagalog added.

The coalition was in the news recently when it exposed that a Court of Appeals justice got grease money in exchange for issuance of a writ of a preliminary injunction about a case.

Its mission is to stop corruption in the judiciary and monitor cases involving businessmen who pay large sums of money to get favorable decisions.

The CFC is credited for filing a plunder case against former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima for his undeclared assets.

Tagalog, however, did not identify the judge in his latest tirade.

Last March, a Court of Appeals division issued a writ of preliminary injunction stopping the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 167 from hearing service provider One Source Port Services Inc.’s complaint against HCPTI, which is accused of illegally terminating its service contract.

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