DESPITE Sandiganbayan Justice Gregory Ong’s dismissal from the service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from holding government office, a Supreme Court (SC) justice has shown no mercy and wants him “double dead.”
Apparently not one who wants to take prisoners, SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen has confirmed that Ong wanted to influence the High Court by offering his letter of resignation to it or opting for early retirement.
In his 38-page concurring opinion on the dismissal of Ong over his links with Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged pork barrel scam brains, Leonen chastised Ong and accused him of “influence peddling.”
Leonen is one of the eight SC justices who voted to boot out Ong from the anti-graft court.
He said Ong circulating the letter of resignation amounts to “influence peddling” since that SC was still deliberating Ong’s case.
“That he had the audacity to try to influence the members of this court by offering to resign through an informal letter circulated through some colleagues is in my view could have been another basis for his dismissal. It shows that he has at least made attempts to communicate ex parte with members of this court outside the formal processes allowed by our [SC] rules,” Leonen added.
The SC Public Information Office was totally ignorant of the letter until a story about it was published by The Manila Times.
Now, Leonen has confirmed the existence of the resignation letter.
The Leonen opinion stated that the letter was informally circulated among some SC justices, a clear violation of the SC Internal Rules since the letter was not officially received or docketed in the tribunal.
“Ex parte communication sub rosa by one being investigated [by]any member of this court while we sit in deliberation of his case is wrong. Influence peddling is wrong,” Leonen said.
In the meantime, SC Justice Arturo Brion called on his fellow SC magistrates to relax the rule on hearsay evidence in administrative or disciplinary proceedings in order to pin down corrupt judges and justices.
In his 27-page separate concurring opinion on the case of Ong, Brion said bribery is very difficult to prove and the hearsay evidence rule must be more lenient.
This is in connection with the testimony of whistleblower Benhur Luy that Ong received money from Napoles and was seen several times in the latter’s office after the acquittal of Napoles in the sala of Ong.
“Necessarily, the persons who have personal knowledge of the transaction would, more often than not, be limited to the offenders themselves who both risk prosecution for their misdeeds. Demanding as a matter of law that witnesses speak from their strict personal knowledge of the actual details of a bribery, would, under these circumstances, practically amount to the requirement that would make it extremely difficult to successfully prosecute the crime of bribery.
“Under these terms, bribery becomes a high percentage crime for the chances of success it offers,” Brion said.
“To be sure, I do not recommend an outright abandonment of our rule on hearsay, but I submit that it is high time that we reexamine its strict application in administrative proceedings, particularly in disciplinary proceedings of judges and justices where bribery charges are involved,” he pointed out.