Two Court of Appeals (CA) justices who allegedly accepted bribes cannot escape congressional probe despite separation of powers, a legislative leader said on Thursday.
Dasmariñas (Cavite) Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, vice chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Accountability, was reacting a to statement issued by CA Sixth Division Chairman Jose Reyes that his accuser–Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th–Trillanes–was simply harassing him.
Trillanes had alleged that Reyes and CA Justice Francisco Acosta of the Sixth Division were paid off P25 million each by Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr.
He said the two justices, through lawyer Pancho Villaraza, received the money in exchange for stopping implementation of a suspension order slapped against the Makati mayor.
The Sixth Division had issued a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction against Binay’s suspension stemming from alleged overpricing of the P2-billion Makati City Hall Building 2.
“While Congress respects the independence of the judiciary and the principle of separation of power since it is a co-equal branch of government, it remains well within the constitutional mandate of the legislature to investigate shenanigans that erode the people’s trust and confidence in the judicial system for the purpose of crafting laws,” Barzaga said in a statement.
He added that a Senate probe is a part of the system of checks and balances.
“While we observe judicial courtesy, it does not mean that Congress is totally powerless when crimes such as the ‘justice for sale’ in the judiciary are committed. Congress has the power to invite or summon party litigants, clerks of court and even subpoena records to get to the bottom of the issue,” Barzaga, a leader of the National Union Party allied with the Aquino administration, pointed out.