President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on Friday expressed his dissatisfaction over the Judicial and Bar Council's (JBC) shortlist of nominees for chief justice.

A television report quoted Aquino saying he was "unhappy" with the JBC list.

Aquino said the JBC was unfair in its decision to consider other nominees while disqualifying others.

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, reportedly favored by Aquino, was disqualified by the JBC from the shortlist due to her pending disbarment cases with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

The JBC, however, included Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza in the shortlist despite a complaint against him.

Lawyer Jose Mejia, the academe's representative to the JBC, said the cases of Jardeleza and De Lima are different because no "prima facie" was found in the complaint against Jardeleza while the IBP decided to conduct a full-blown investigation in the cases against the De Lima.

Aquino, however, said he has no other choice but to choose from among the nominees because the Constitution requires him to. The President has until August 27 to name his choice.

Besides Jardeleza, also included in the shortlist are acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, SC justices Roberto Abad, Arturo Brion, Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, former executive secretary and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora and former Ateneo law dean Cesar Villanueva.

Mejia, in a separate TV interview, said Aquino is free to express his opinion about the JBC shortlist, but agreed that the President may only appoint the next chief justice from the list submitted by the JBC.


Abalos free on bail; De Lima ‘shocked’ Written by Pat C. Santos Saturday, 18 August 2012 00:00

Former Chairman of the Commission on Elections Benjamin Abalos Sr (photo). is today a free man — at least temporarily.

After almost eight months in detention of the former poll chairman, the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) finally granted Abalos his bail petition Friday afternoon in connection with the electoral sabotage charges filed against him by his former office.

RTC Branch 112 Presiding Judge Jesus Mupas pegged the bail at P500,000 each totalling P1 million for two counts of the charges, although a hold departure order (HDO) has been issued against the former poll chief to prevent him from leaving the country and ensure that he will be facing prosecution of his case and continuance of the trial.

The court also copy furnished the HDO order of Abalos each to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Justice.

Mupas’ order also showed that the Court took into consideration the advanced age of Abalos and his current health condition.

The order also stated that it finds it necessary to render justice with compassion in line with the ruling of the Supreme Court that the continued confinement of the accused who are ill, would be injurious to their health or endanger their lives so much so that their admission for bail cannot be refused.

Reacting to reports on the grant of bail to Abalos, Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Leila De Lima expressed surprise and shock over the granting on Friday of the petition for bail.

“Very surprising, if not shocking,” De Lima said upon learning about the ruling of Pasay City RTC and that of the Judge allowing Abalos to post bail on the electoral sabotage case filed against him.

“First, what I know about that, it was still (Thursday) when the Comelec (Commission on Elections) filed a memorandum on the issue of the bail,” she stressed.

De Lima added that after a hearing, the judge would require the parties to submit their respective memorandums to elaborate on their respective positions.

The DoJ chief expressed the belief that the testimony of former provincial election supervisor Yogie Martirizar who directly pointed to Abalos as a major player in the manipulation of the result of the election in North Cotabato in 2007 was very strong.

Nevertheless, De Lima said that they are still very confident that in the end, Abalos will be pinned down and convicted of electoral sabotage.

The Comelec, for its part, said it is not worried that Judge Mupas has allowed the former poll chairman to post bail.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes explained that it is only a bail hearing, just as it was in the case of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Brillantes believes the poll body has a strong case against Abalos.
“When the judge says the accused is granted bail, what it means is that the evidence is weak. The judge does not say the case is weak,” Brillantes said.

He noted they have not yet presented all the witnesses in the case.

“That’s because in the electoral sabotage case, we have not yet presented all our witnesses since that was still a bail hearing,” the poll chief claimed.

Brillantes noted the recent development in the case is part of the judicial process, stressing that the case would have not been filed if they think they have a weak case.

Abalos filed his petition for bail on Dec. 13, 2011 after he was ordered to be detained at the SPD by the court on two counts of electoral sabotage filed against him together with North Cotobato Provincial Election supervisor, Yogie Martirizar.

However, Mupas granted the petition of Martirizar to be discharged as co-accused of Abalos last July 18 and instead utilized her as a witness after denying the conspiracy on the election fraud that occurred in Maguindanao in May 2007 election to ensure the 12-0 votes winning of the Team Unity of former president.

But Abalos contends that he had filed administrative charges for election cheating during his incumbency as poll chief against Martirizar.

Mupas in granting the petition of Martirizar to be discharged from the electoral sabotage case against her and Abalos, the latter will continue to face the trial.

Based on the order of Mupas, it was stated that it was aptly shown that there is evidence of guilt on the part of Abalos, however, though such evidence of guilt is present, it does not follow that the same is strong enough as required by law to deny his admission to bail.

It was explained that by judicial discretion, the law mandates the determination of whether proof evident or when the presumption of guilt is strong.

“Proof evident” or “evident proof” in this connection has been held to mean clear; strong evidence which leads a well-guarded disposition ate judgment to conclusion that the offense has been committed as charged, that accused is the guilty agent and that he will probably be punished capitally if the law is administered.

It was further stated that “presumption great” exists when the circumstances testified to are such that the inference of guilty naturally to be drawn therefrom is strong, clear and convincing to an unbiased judgment and excludes all reasonable probability of any other conclusion.”.

“Even though there is a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of accused, if on an examination of the entire record the presumption is great that accused is guilty of capital offense, bail should be refused.”

However, Mupas’ order in applying the above said standard, it was not established with clarity the strong evidence of guilt of Abalos, thus leaving the court in doubt as to whether or not the former Comelec chairman should be admitted bail for his temporary liberty.

The court only considered the granting of bail to Abalos due to his age and present health condition.
Last June, Abalos had been allowed to post bail by the Pasay City court Branch 117, where he faces 11 counts of electoral fraud.

For his part, Abalos’ son Mandaluyong City Mayor Ben Hur Abalos said the court’s order indicated the prosecution “was not able” to establish his father’s “strong guilt.”

“What it is said is that the prosecution failed to establish clarity (of the case),” he said.
Besides, he said, his father is already old.

Asked what his father plans to do once he is out of detention, Mayor Abalos said, “his plans included his returning to his home to be with his family in our ancestral home.”

The young Abalos also bared that his father after resting, will go back at the compound of the SPD headquarter to be with the 20 children whom he extended help during his eight months of detention. With PNA

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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