SANDIGANBAYAN Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang inhibited from the case of Roberto Ongpin and ordered the re-raffle of graft cases surrounding the P660-million behest loan of the Development Bank of the Philippines.
In a one-page letter sent to the Sandiganbayan Judicial Records Division, Tang said that she could not participate from trying the case.
“The undersigned is inhibiting herself from participating in light of the fact that she directly handled these cases,” the letter read.
Prior to her judicial post at the anti-graft court, Tang was an assistant solicitor general of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
She and the team of former Solicitor General Anselmo Cadiz spearheaded the investigation and case build up of the alleged behest loan that DBP offered to former Trade minister Roberto Ongpin.
It was also the OSG who asked the Office of the Ombudsman to suspend 14 bank executives who allegedly had a hand in permitting two tranches loan of P150 million in April 2009 and P510 million in November 2009, which the Ombudsman ruled as behest.
As a court rule, a magistrate needs to inhibit from a case on his own volition or following the submission of a party to avoid any clout of bias from the bench.
Tang disclosed in her letter that she was involved in the case “when [the cases]pended with Office of the Ombudsman.”
Being the chairperson of the Third Division, Tang could not simply keep the case in the division and excuse herself from any trial proceedings.
By procedure, if the division chairperson inhibits, the case automatically goes back to the Records Division for a re-raffle.
As it is, she already ordered the raffle committee of the Records Division to include the Ongpin case for a re-raffle scheduled on Friday.
JOHN CONSTANTINE G. CORDON