FORMER chief justice Artemio Panganiban counts Supreme Court justices among his golf buddies. But now that he is facing contempt before the High Court, will they play along and give in to his game?
An unimpeachable source told The Manila Times that Panganiban himself lobbied for his case in order to win his plea of getting higher benefits by adding his legal consultancy while on private law practice in two government offices.
Associate Justice Arturo Brion asked his colleagues in the High Court to ask Panganiban to explain why he should not be chastised for intruding into the pending decisions of the Tribunal through his published articles.
The Manila Times has obtained a one-page letter dated June 10, 2013 and addressed to the Court en banc showing that Brion asked his colleagues to probe the writings of Panganiban in a newspaper (not The Manila Times).
Brion accused Panganiban of writing opinions that are still pending in the Tribunal. He even attached a sample article where Panganiban expressed his opinion in the case of G.R. No. 187485 (Commissioner of Internal Revenue vs. San Roque Power Corporation ); et al.
“Unless stopped by decisive Court action, this practice of intruding into pending court cases through the media will assume epidemic proportions, to the prejudice of this Court.’’
The magistrate argued that while freedom of speech and of the press exists, it should not intrude into pending cases before the Court since it is sub judice.
Some Supreme Court justices now fear that Panganiban will be protected again by fellow magistrates with whom he regularly plays golf.
“He has been talking with the SC Justices to lobby for his case. That’s why he won,” a magistrate said.
A Times source said Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro has asked that Panganiban’s golf buddies in the court to recuse themselves from the case because they have direct contact with the former chief justice who has a pending case before the High Court.
De Castro did not name the incumbent justices who play golf with Panganiban.
Panganiban was short of the 15-year government service required under Republic Act 9946 when he retired to qualify for higher benefits. To fill the gap, Panganiban cited his legal consultancy for four years at the Board of National Education and as a legal counsel to the Secretary of Education from January 1962 to December 1965 as shown by the Sworn Certification of late Education Secretary Alejandro Roces.
But he was credited only for 11 years, 1 month and 27 days for his total stay in the Supreme Court.
Eden Candelaria, deputy Clerk of Court and SC chief administrative officer, said she turned down Panganiban’s plea because “consultancy or contract service is not considered government service pursuant to Rule XI (Contract of Services/Job Orders) of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292.
Panganiban appealed the decision.
A source said Panganiban’s plea has caused divisions in the High Court.
At least five of the 15 justices will vote against Panganiban because they believe that legal consultancy while on his private practice cannot be considered and counted as government service.
Some justices argued that if they grant Panganiban’s plea, it will set a bad precedent. Panganiban insists that his stay as legal consultant should be credited as part of government service.
He said former chief justice Andres Narvasa’s tenure as general counsel of the Agrava Board that investigated the killing of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was credited to his 20-year service in the government.
Retired justice Abraham Sarmiento also credited his term as Special Legal Counsel in the University of the Philippines as part of his government service.