THE Court of Appeals (CA) on Thursday found singer and bus operator Claire de la Fuente guilty of indirect contempt.
The appellate court made the ruling after proving that dela Fuente engaged in forum shopping in order to secure a favorable ruling.
The ruling stemmed from a P417.8-million tax evasion case filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) against her and her bus company Philippine Corinthian Line Corp. (PCLC).
Based on a 14-page decision penned by Associate Justice Pedro Corales, the CA’s Special 15th Division ordered dela Fuente (Clarita de Guzman in real life) and PCLC to pay a fine of P2,000 each.
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Sesinando Villon and Victoria Isabel Paredes.
The singer was also warned that a repetition of the same shall be dealt with more severely.
“This court cannot countenance petitioners resort to the reprehensible practice of forum shopping, which manipulates the court system, abuses its processes, degrades the administration of justice and wastes valuable judicial resources,” the decision read.
The appellate court argued that the filing of a motion for reconsideration by dela Fuente with the Department of Justice despite the fact that she had a similar motion pending before the the CA “is a clear case of forum shopping” as de la Fuente sought, at the same time, two separate remedies with two different judicial venues—the DOJ and the CA—to obtain one and the same relief, which is the reversal of the November 5, 2010 resolution of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
“We therefore impose the maximum corresponding penalty, without prejudice to the appropriate administrative sanctions, and sternly warn petitioners against similar behavior in the future,” the court said.
In antecedents of the case, the singer-trader lodged a petition for mandamus, prohibition and certiorari before the CA’s 16th Division against the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, asking that the DOJ chief’s November 2, 2010 ruling must be reversed.
De Lima ordered the re-filing of the evasion case, which stemmed from PCLC’s alleged failure to pay P417.8 million in taxes for the years 1997 to 2004 based on a complaint of the BIR in September 2005.
On August 15, 2012, the CA’s 16th Division ruled to junk dela Fuente’s petition and her subsequent motion for reconsideration, prompting her to elevate the case to the Supreme Court.
While the case is pending before the High Court, Dela Fuente filed a motion for reconsideration of de Lima’s November 2, 2010 resolution, which was denied by the latter in a resolution issued on June 27, 2012.
With this, the singer-trader again filed a petition before the CA, this time seeking to set aside the June 27, 2012 resolution of de Lima.