(STAR) HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes - A few columns back, we lauded Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, and Associate Justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago and Antonio Carpio for inhibiting themselves from taking part in any move by the High Court related to the legal war between the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Manila Electric Company (Meralco).

We said this is “delicadeza” at its finest and not a few of our readers agreed.

Many have also expressed concern why Court of Appeals (CA) Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez did not opt to display a similar “delicadeza”. The view is that Vasquez sounded like he belittled this value during last week’s hearings before the Supreme Court panel probing the controversies at his backyard. The CA head dismissed allegations that he has two daughters, a powerful sister and a niece all working for handsome wages at the GSIS as “mere hearsay”.

Unfortunately, GSIS lead counsel Estrella Elamparo had confirmed at an interview with some of our media colleagues at an AM station that Vasquez does have daughters, and relatives all working at the GSIS. Having close kin work for an interested party in a legal tiff before one’s court is not crime per se. But it could have been a crisp opportunity for a sterling display of “delicadeza”. Justice Vasquez could have admitted much earlier to his peers about such relations and made a decision to stay away from the GSIS-Meralco tiff as a result.

Because of one daughter (of CA Justice Jose Sabio) working in his chamber, the Chief Justice inhibited. Because of one daughter employed by Meralco, Justice Ynares-Santiago inhibited. Couldn’t Vasquez have inhibited on account of two daughters, a sister and a niece working for the GSIS?

Now, the SC panel has summoned the GSIS head of personnel to shed light on the Vasquez relations at the GSIS. This is sad. We had hoped that the CA head would be spared the embarrassment had he opted for delicadeza. Now, he is even angrily debating the issue.

Vasquez’ major setback is that the Chief Justice and two of his associates have stood up for delicadeza. Now, a public so inspired by this act would be measuring others based on this precedent.

Questions have also been raised on the propriety of lawyer Elamparo’s visit to the chamber of CA Justice Vicente Roxas. The latter said she had committed an illegal act. That would be for an appropriate court to rule on.

But again, delicadeza could have won the day for the GSIS head counsel.

She did not deny Justice Roxas’ accusation. And many wonder whether or not the visit to Justice Roxas’ chamber at the height of the GSIS-Meralco legal war contravened the spirit of Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers which call upon them to refrain from acts which “tends to give the appearance of influencing the court”.

We cannot and must not pass judgment on a member of the legal community. Suffice it to say that this is another situation where delicadeza could have helped protect one’s credibility.

Delicadeza seems such a difficult value to live out. But we have Justices Puno, Ynares-Santiago and Carpio to show us that it can be done.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved