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Businessman turns table on CA justice over alleged bribe

July 31, 2008 8:33pm

Tags: Meralco
MANILA, Philippines — In an apparent move to turn the table on Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr., a man claiming to be a businessman and deal-maker came out on Thursday to accuse Sabio of harboring the idea of profiting from the controversial case between the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Sabio earlier disclosed that a businessman offered him P10 million to inhibit himself from the controversial case between Meralco and GSIS in the Court of Appeals, which stemmed from the attempt of GSIS to seize control of the electric company's management from the Lopez family.

Sabio has yet to name the businessman but Francis Roa de Borja, in an affidavit dated July 31, 2008, insinuated that he was the person referred to by Sabio as the one brokering for Meralco, but that he had a different story to tell.

Borja claimed that he sought a meeting with Sabio on or about May 31, 2008, for a “chitchat" on the Meralco-GSIS case. After all, he said, he had come to know Sabio very well when the latter was a regional trial court judge in Cagayan de Oro.

De Borja went on to claim that Sabio, while serving as regional trial court judge, accepted P300,000 that he gave in appreciation for Sabio's alleged help in the successful completion of a real property transaction.

During their “chitchat," Sabio allegedly told De Borja that he was under a lot of pressure from the government on the case. Sabio supposedly said he was also receiving “blandishments coming from the government side" offering him a promotion to the Supreme Court and money to favor the position of the GSIS.

De Borja further claimed that when he asked what it would take for Sabio to resist the government offer, Sabio's reply was: “Fifty million (pesos)."

Sabio's denial

In a statement sent to media organizations Thursday evening, Sabio said: "I find [De Borja's statement] not only ridiculous but also incredible."

"He absolutely twisted the facts to suit a wicked end," the Court of Appeals justice said. He "vehemently" denied that De Borja asked him what it takes to inhibit from the case.

"I never asked for money," said in his statement.

"On the contrary, (De Borja) told me that he was sent by (Meralco chairman) Manolo Lopez who was with him in the car because it was a matter of life and death for them. And so they wanted the case to be 'ensured.' He mentioned about the abuses committed against the Lopezes during the Marcos time and now being done by the Arroyo administration. And so he pleaded for me to accept what he called a 'win-win situation of ten million,'" Sabio said.

Sabio said De Borja's affidavit is "obviously a smear campaign." He said he will hold a press conference on Friday to reveal the details of what "transpired between me and Francis Roa de Borja."

En banc meeting

Earlier on Thursday, Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. called a session of all justices of the court in Metro Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro to discuss Sabio’s revelation.

Sabio earlier alleged that a businessman wanted him to give way to the return of Justice Bienvenido Reyes as head of the CA’s Ninth Division, which was handling the case filed by Meralco against GSIS and the Securities and Exchange Commission on the counting of proxy votes in favor of the Lopezes, majority owners of Meralco.

Sabio said he rejected the offer but was surprised when the case was transferred to the 8th Division with Reyes as its head. Reyes’ division eventually ruled in favor of Meralco.

Sabio noted that aside from him, another member of the dissolved division, Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal, also questioned why the case was transferred to the jurisdiction of the 8th Division.

During Thursday’s meeting, the CA justices engaged in a "spirited" debate over the three issues – propriety of the actions of the justices concerned; validity of the decision rendered by the 8th Division; and, conflict in the interpretation of the internal rules regarding which division should act in particular stages of the case.

A justice who asked not to be named said that during the four-hour meeting nobody asked Sabio to identify the person who supposedly offered him bribe money and that Sabio also did not offer to disclose the identity of the emissary.

At the end of the four-hour meeting, the CA clerk of court decided to refer the propriety of the actions of the justices concerned to the Supreme Court through the Office of the Court Administrator.

Court officials said the ruling of the 8th Division upholding the control of the Lopez bloc over Meralco will remain in effect, unless reversed through a motion for reconsideration or before the Supreme Court.

In his affidavit, De Borja insinuated that Sabio wanted to remain as acting chairman of the 9th Division because he was up to something.

Borja claimed that on July 1, 2008, he met with Sabio wherein they again had a conversation on the Meralco case. Sabio allegedly told De Borja that he was very suspicious of Justice Reyes' motives.

“Why does he want to go back? Siguro meron silang gustong gawin dito," he was quoted by De Borja as saying.

De Borja claimed that Sabio mentioned that he had consulted his other colleagues in the CA and they told him that he was in the right and should stick to his guns. Thus, he vowed that he would hold on as acting chair of the division.

That was when Sabio told De Borja about the offer of unnamed government officials for a promotion at the Supreme Court and money for a favorable ruling for GSIS.

“He in effect had just given me his motive for wanting to remain as Acting Chairman of the Division. I concluded that this was probably the reason why he was hanging on so desperately to the acting chairmanship of the division," De Borja said in his affidavit. - GMANews.TV

Tags: Meralco