Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong has submitted his resignation letter to the Supreme Court (SC) en banc, asking that he be allowed to retire early from the anti-graft court.
Ong apparently decided to sever his ties with the Sandiganbayan after his name and reputation was tarnished over his alleged links to Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Currently, Ong is the most senior justice of the Sandiganbayan or the longest-sitting justice of the anti-graft court. He was promoted as SC justice during the Arroyo administration but it was withdrawn after his citizenship was questioned.
Ong asked the SC justices to allow him to hang his robes as a magistrate by granting him the chance to wind up his affairs in the anti-graft court and have his early retirement.
Standing his ground, he stated that he has done no wrong and committed no grave misconduct. Ong’s name was supposedly stained by adverse reports from an investigation by a retired SC justice of his alleged ties to Napoles.
He pointed out that he was prejudged by the reports and his name was destroyed even if it would turn out that his alleged links to Napoles were untrue. Hence, Ong said, he opted for early retirement.
Ong’s letter was presented before the SC en banc. Some SC magistrates, however, still wanted to pursue the case against Ong.
Despite his letter of resignation, the Sandiganbayan justice’s fate will be known today when the SC en banc decides whether he will be dismissed or suspended as a magistrate.
According to a well-placed source of The Manila Times in the High Court, the SC en banc is expected to vote after several postponements caused by tight and tedious deliberations.
The Times source said the entry of SC Justice Francis Jardeleza will “make or break” the career and case of Ong.
It was learned that Jardeleza could be the “swing vote” in the case since the voting by the SC justices on the case was “even” on the eve of the voting.
In last Tuesday’s en banc session, The Times source said Jardeleza wanted that the Anti-Money Laundering Council first probe the bank accounts of Ong before reaching their verdict.
The inquiry supposedly would establish whether Ong had received money from Napoles. Hence, Jardeleza’s proposal to “remand” the case to the investigator and retired SC Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez.
Out of the 15 SC magistrates, two justices have abstained from the case — Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Diosdado Peralta — former colleagues of Ong in the anti-graft court.
Before Jardeleza became a member of the High Court, the voting by the 12 justices had been 6-6 on suspension and dismissal from the service, respectively.
The Times source said Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion, Martin Villarama and Marvic Leonen will vote for the ouster of Ong.
Villarama was the ponente of the case that adopted Gutierrez’s recommendation that Ong be dismissed.
Brion and Leonen already have their separate opinions that the Sandiganbayan justice be axed.
Seen voting for the suspension of Ong are Presbitero Velasco Jr., Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Bienvenido Reyes and Jose Mendoza.
Bersamin, Reyes and Perez also have written their separate opinions on the suspension of Ong.
The Times source said the votes of Ong’s classmates who are now members of the High Court–Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Mariano del Castillo–are a big question.
“It will be a close voting on Tuesday. Seven against 6, either way it could be. Or the vote can still reach 8, if the justices change their minds,” the source said.
In removing a justice, judge or court personnel, the SC en banc shall sign in a per curiam (by the court) decision.
This means that all of the justices must sign the decision as “a court.”
Even the name of the ponente will not be disclosed.