The Regional Trial Court judge handling the legal battle over control of Harbour Centre Port Holdings Inc. (HCPHI) has inhibited himself from the case to avoid creating an impression of partiality in the proceedings.
In a two-page order, Judge Bernelito Fernandez of the Quezon City RTC Branch 97 granted the motion for inhibition filed by businessman Michael Romero and his company HCPHI “in order to erase any such doubt and with the utmost intention to uphold the integrity of the judiciary as an institution worthy of public trust and confidence.”
Reghis Romero, owner of R-II Builders, filed a civil case asking for the declaration of nullity of deeds of assignment, injunction and other reliefs, with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction against his son Michael, owner of HCPHI.
Fernandez also issued a three-page gag order against Michael, his lawyers and the media, saying the “sub judice rule restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to the judicial proceedings in order to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court or obstructing the administration of justice.”
He said violators may be charged with indirect contempt.
“This court is aware of the fact that numerous articles have been published through print and other forms of media which categorically state that the ownership of Harbour Terminal shares belongs to the defendants [Michael and his firm] and not to the plaintiffs,” the judge added.
The case will be re-raffled anytime this week after all records pertaining to the case are forwarded to the Office of the Clerk of Court.
Fernandez accused Michael of “unfounded accusations of bias, impartiality and prejudgment, among others” hurled against him, citing published news articles “especially broadsheets,” which he said were by-products of Michael’s broad imagination.
The jusge allegedly received P10 million in exchange for issuance of the TRO. Fernandez’s wife is allegedly the sister of Reghis’ common-law wife.
These issues were not disputed when the judge inhibited from handling the case.
Father and son have been fighting for ownership of the shares in Harbour Terminal based on the subject deeds of assignment.
Once the case has been re-raffled, the judge who will assume the case is expected to rule on the motion for writ of preliminary injunction.