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SC to investigate bribery issue

August 2, 2008 1:16am

Tags: Meralco
MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court has come in to investigate the bribery issue in connection to the Court of Appeals’ controversial ruling on the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) leadership row.

Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said all magistrates of the high court would meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue. He said Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno has ordered all records related to the case be forwarded to the high court immediately.

The en banc is a formal endorsement of sorts after the Court of Appeals referred the investigation to the Office of the Court Administrator.

The magistrates of the Court of Appeals met in a rare banc meeting on Thursday following the allegations of Associate Justice Jose Sabio, Jr. that he was offered P10 million by a Meralco emissary to give way to another Associate Justice who is friendlier to the firm’s case. He would later reveal that the emissary was businessman Francis Roa De Borja, whom he alleged was a close friend of the Lopezes. He claimed he was left out in the cold when another division ruled on the case without ever going through the merits. The decision, written by Associate Justice Vicente Q. Roxas and issued last July 24, nullified a Securities and Exchange Commission directive stopping Meralco from counting proxy votes questioned by the Government Service Insurance System and a follow-up show-cause order asking the utility to explain why it ignored the regulator’s instructions.

The appellate court magistrates saw the need to look deeper into the bribery case, but decided not to overturn the decision. It decided to "leave the matter concerning the validity of the decision to the parties to take whatever steps they may deem appropriate in the usual course of procedure."


Immediately after the en banc meeting, the magistrates each received an affidavit signed by Mr. De Borja imputing that Mr. Sabio himself sought him out and would favor the Meralco position for "P50 million."

The businessman introduced himself a member of the prominent Roa family of Cagayan de Oro. He met Mr. Sabio when he brokered for a real estate property there. The Justice was then the legal adviser for the Roas.

The justice confided that there were also pressures from the GSIS’ side. "If he would give up, he would lose his chance for an SC seat and the promise of monetary consideration," he said in his affidavit.

In another press conference the other day, Mr. Sabio debunked the allegations. He said they should both undergo a lie-detector test to prove the validity of the other’s claims.

He denied he has ever been in constant communication with Mr. De Borja, except for the three phone calls that were initiated by the latter. Not wanting to give up, the businessman visited him at the Ateneo Law School where he teaches and brought up the P10 million offer.

He alleged the businessman had even bragged that Meralco Chairman and Chief Executive Manolo Lopez was waiting in a car outside the building.

"At that point, I was shocked that he had a very low regard for me. He was treating me like there was a price on my person. I could not describe my feelings. I was stunned," he said. The magistrate also released to the media Evelyn Roa Clavano’s affidavit that it was the businessman who sought him out "to accept his P10 million bribe." Ms. Clavano is the daughter of former Cagayan De Oro Representative Oloy Roa.

"I had called Mrs. Clavano about some personal matters. It was during that call that I was again shocked to learn that Mr. De Borja had already called her. She told me she was also shocked that [he] had the gall to ask her to convince me to accept the bribe," Mr. Sabio said. The magistrate said he is contemplating filing bribery or perjury charges against the businessman.

In a phone patch, Mr. De Borja said he is willing to undergo the lie-detector test provided that they do it at the same time and should be administered by a competent foreign agency.

"I’m just curious, how could he even suggest a thing when he should know that the test is not admissible in court," he said.

He denied he was close to the Lopezes and only came out with the affidavit "because I want to put on record [what I know about him]. With regard to the cases he will file, he can do whatever he wants." - BusinessWorld
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Tags: Meralco