Manila, March 27, 2003 (By AMADO P. MACASAET} -- Until the Supreme Court promulgates it, whatever
it does regarding any case is unofficial.

But we have word that the Court has practically denied the petition of Sen.
Panfilo Lacson seeking the inhibition of Associate Justice Romeo J. Callejo
Sr. from participating in the deliberation of the case.

When Callejo was associate justice of the Court of Appeals, he voluntarily
inhibited himself from being involved in the case on what clearly are
grounds used by honorable members of any court, particularly the Supreme
Court this time.

We have no information on whether or not Justice Callejo denied that
self-imposed inhibition in the Court of Appeals.

What we have is a copy of his letter received by the Raffle Committee of
the CA on August 20, 2001.

In that letter, he said: "I discovered upon going over the records that the
complainant is Director Leandro Mendoza of the PNP who has direct
supervision and control over my nephew, the deputy chief of intelligence of
the PNP, which, I understand, conducted an investigation of the case
against petitioner (Lacson), et al before the complaint was filed with the
Secretary of Justice.

"I am thus constrained to inhibit myself from participating in the
resolution of the petition to avoid any suspicion of my impartiality.

"Please have another raffle for another Justice to replace me in the
Division of Five," Callejo concluded.

Justice Callejo was subsequently replaced by Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr.

Given these facts, it is incumbent upon Justice Callejo to inhibit himself
again in the same case because, as the counsel of Lacson said in his motion
for recusation, "Justice Callejo should have more reason now than he first
had to voluntarily inhibit himself in this case, especially because this
Honorable Court is the last bastion of justice."

It does not sound regular or ordinary practice that the decision of Justice
Callejo to inhibit himself or not should belong to the Supreme Court
sitting en banc or as a division.

Insiders in the High Court also said that the deliberation on the
promulgation of a resolution which could have the effect of granting the
motion for reconsideration has been postponed to next week.

We wonder why the Court should make a ruling on this particular case with a
mere resolution when what is being appealed is a unanimous decision.

If these things happen, the entire court would have appropriated unto
itself what clearly is a decision that belongs to Justice Callejo alone. If
he refuses to inhibit himself, he would have gone back on his word when he
inhibited himself - voluntarily - when the case was with the Court of Appeals.

Rare, I believe, is the occasion when so critical a case involving the fate
of a political enemy of the administration should be resolved with a
resolution that does not identify the magistrates who are for the
re-opening of the Kuratong Baleleng case and those who are opposed to it.

Should Justice Callejo participate in the deliberation of the Lacson case
and go as far as accepting the assignment to be the ponente, he would have
lent credence to the word going around that some powerful people
"requested" him to write an adverse opinion.

We cannot verify the word or rumor that Justice Callejo was promised the
seat vacated by retired Associate Justice Sabino de Leon.

Callejo got the promotion but, if he becomes the ponente, observers would
tend to believe that there was a quid pro quo.

That is, he would grant the motion for reconsideration on the Kuratong
Baleleng case, in exchange for becoming an associate justice of the Supreme

What has become apparent to the supporters of Lacson is that some powerful
people are determined to see Lacson behind bars before the official start
of the presidential campaign.

If the Supreme Court sustains the motion for reconsideration, a warrant of
arrest could be issued against Lacson and he would go straight to jail
because the crime he is accused of is not bailable.

Those who do not know about the background of the this case which borders
more on politics and less on law, should know that the Supreme Court
unanimously ruled by a vote of 13-0 that case be remanded to the regional
trial court of Quezon City, presided over by Judge Maria Teresa Yadao.

It will also be recalled that then Justice Secretary Hernando B. Perez was
jubilant over the unanimous ruling, indicating that he believed it was a
victory for the people.

But before the Solicitor General filed the motion for reconsideration,
Perez petitioned for the inhibition of Judge Yadao.

Yadao refused, obviously because the decision of the High Court was
specific that the case be remanded to her court.

Yadao is the same judge who issued an order against the "release on
recognizance" of six suspects in the deaths of two sons of former Mindoro
Occidental Gov. Ricardo Quintos.

The request to release the suspects carried the signature of President
Arroyo, Justice Secretary Hernando B. Perez and the executive secretary.

Yadao observed in her order declining the request that while the
recommendation of the President has a huge weight, "even the rulers must be
ruled by law."

At the risk of being cited for contempt, the denial by the Court of the
recusation against Associate Justice Callejo does not help attain the
objectives of Associate Justice Artemio V. Panganiban's book, "Reforming
the Judiciary."

The Supreme Court's image was tarnished in the legitimization of the
presidency of Mrs. Arroyo.

It should not be further blackened by a decision which, to many, is tainted
with politics and not necessarily the law.

The restoration of the rule of law has become an advocacy of former Sen.
Francisco S. Tatad. (Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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