PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEKEND

OLONGAPO COURT SUSPENDS PEMBERTON TRIAL FOR 2 MONTHS  

DEC 24 ---The Olongapo City court has granted the motion of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton to suspend his trial for two months. The court issued the order to allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to rule on Pemberton’s motion to dismiss the case of murder filed against him. Olongapo City Prosecutor Emilie delos Santos told GMA News that the court denied the separate motions of the family of victim Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude to allow live media coverage of the hearings and to transfer Pemberton to a regular jail. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Pemberton runs to De Lima, seeks dismissal of murder case 

Murder suspect US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton has asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to dismiss the case filed against him for the killing of Filipino transgender woman Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude in Olongapo City. In a 33-page petition for review filed by his counsel on Monday, Pemberton asked De Lima to set aside the Dec. 15, 2014 resolution of the Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office finding probable cause to charge the US serviceman with murder. "Not only is the assailed resolution full of logical leaps and unwarranted conclusions, it also disregarded the fundamental principles pertaining to treachery as a qualifying circumstance in the crime of murder," read the plea. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Pemberton: No murder

Through his lawyer Rowena Garcia-Flores, Pemberton asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to review the Dec. 15 resolution of a panel of Olongapo City prosecutors chaired by Emilie delos Santos finding probable cause for charging the Marine with murder for the death of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude last Oct. 11. “Not only is the assailed resolution full of logical leaps and unwarranted conclusions, it also disregarded the fundamental principles pertaining to treachery as a qualifying circumstance in the crime of murder,” read the 33-page petition.  Pemberton’s lawyer claimed that there was “no direct evidence to show how the alleged attack was commenced and executed.”  Laude was found dead inside a rented room he shared with Pemberton on the night of Oct. 11 in Olongapo City. The pair had some drinks at a nearby bar before they checked into the Celzone Lodge. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Ona smells politics in ouster

Finally breaking his silence, former health secretary Enrique Ona yesterday blamed politics for his being eased out of the Aquino administration. “I’m sure there is politics there, among other things. I’m not a politician. Being a secretary of health is enough for me. I have absolutely no political ambition and that has been my solid position ever since,” Ona told The STAR. He refused to elaborate but recalled having told a colleague that the Department of Health is a good jumping board to the Senate. “DOH is a good platform, just like what happened to Sen. (Juan) Flavier. Health is very important and I believe that we really need a doctor at the Senate,” he added. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: P-Noy accepts Lacson resignation 

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino yesterday accepted the resignation of Panfilo Lacson as presidential assistant for recovery and reconstruction (PARR) effective February next year. “We agreed in principle to wind up my duties as PARR by Feb. 10, when I shall have completed the transition to NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council), where the four-phase cycle of addressing disasters rightfully belongs,” Lacson said in a text message disseminated by Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. “We had a good talk,” Lacson said, adding he explained to the President the wisdom of strengthening the NDRRMC. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Enrile asks for 'Hari ng Tondo' viewing for Christmas

PHOTO: "Hari ng Tondo" (2014) was directed by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, a nephew of detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. MANILA, Philippines — The camp of detained Senator Juan Ponce requested the Philippine National Police for a film showing inside the PNP General Hospital on Thursday, Christmas Day. Actress Bibeth Orteza asked the PNP to show the movie "Hari ng Tondo" from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. where Enrile is staying, reports said on Wednesday. Once allowed, Enrile's families, close friends and relatives will view the movie with him. "Hari ng Tondo" was directed by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Enrile's nephew. The PNP said that only the family members of Enrile requested to watch the screening but they could invite other patients inside the hospital to see movie. Enrile is facing plunder and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

(ALSO) Yearender: SC tussles with Palace anew over DAP, ‘pork’  

PHOTO: Sereno MANILA, Philippines - In 2014 the Supreme Court (SC) again asserted its supremacy over a co-equal branch of government, with no less than President Aquino on the receiving end. After striking down the pork barrel funds of lawmakers, the SC declared unconstitutional certain acts and practices under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) last July. The SC justices unanimously held in a 92-page decision that the DAP violated the constitutional provision on the separation of powers and prohibition on inter-branch transfer of appropriations. The ruling angered the President, who even issued an indirect threat of impeachment against the justices. Aquino’s allies in the House also initiated moves to abolish the Judicial Development Fund. READ FULL REPORT...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Olongapo court suspends Pemberton trial for 2 months

MANILA, DECEMBER 22, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Edu Punay - The Olongapo City court has granted the motion of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton to suspend his trial for two months.

The court issued the order to allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to rule on Pemberton’s motion to dismiss the case of murder filed against him.

Olongapo City Prosecutor Emilie delos Santos told GMA News that the court denied the separate motions of the family of victim Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude to allow live media coverage of the hearings and to transfer Pemberton to a regular jail.

Delos Santos said the court ordered the trial suspended for 60 calendar days.

“No other reason (was) given except that it’s allowed in the rules. It’s the right of the accused,” Delos Santos said when asked why the court granted Pemberton’s motion.

Delos Santos, however, believes the murder of Laude is a “special case” and the DOJ will decide on it before the 60-day period lapses.

“Based on procedure, the trial is suspended… After 60 days, if the DOJ has no decision on the motion, the trial will resume. But this is a special case, I don’t think the DOJ will sleep on it,” she said.

In his motion to defer proceedings filed last week, Pemberton cited his right to a review of the merits of the case.

Pemberton has asked the DOJ to set aside the Dec. 15 resolution of the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office finding probable cause to charge him with murder.

Pemberton was charged with killing Laude in an Olongapo City motel on Oct. 11.

He is currently detained at a US facility inside the main headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Although a warrant of arrest was issued against Pemberton, the US embassy has rejected the government’s request to take custody of the American trooper, citing the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Pemberton was among a group of US Marines who took part in the recently concluded US-Philippine joint military exercises in Zambales.

Pemberton and Laude reportedly met at the Ambyanz Night Life Bar along Magsaysay Avenue on the night of Oct. 11 and were later seen together checking in at the nearby Celzone Lodge.

Under the VFA, the involvement of a member of the US military like Pemberton in a crime has a prescriptive period of only a year.

Delos Santos said the prosecution will immediately move for arraignment of Pemberton once the suspension of proceedings has been lifted.

“The prosecution will move for immediate arraignment, the court will have to decide on that,” she said.


FROM PHILSTAR

Pemberton runs to De Lima, seeks dismissal of murder case By MARK MERUEÑAS,GMA NewsDecember 22, 2014 3:31pm 4069 49 0 4292 (Updated 5:18 p.m.)

Murder suspect US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton has asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to dismiss the case filed against him for the killing of Filipino transgender woman Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude in Olongapo City.

In a 33-page petition for review filed by his counsel on Monday, Pemberton asked De Lima to set aside the Dec. 15, 2014 resolution of the Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office finding probable cause to charge the US serviceman with murder.

"Not only is the assailed resolution full of logical leaps and unwarranted conclusions, it also disregarded the fundamental principles pertaining to treachery as a qualifying circumstance in the crime of murder," read the plea.

In its resolution, the prosecutors who handled the preliminary investigation decided to file a murder case against Pemberton because of the presence of treachery, cruelty, and abuse of superior strength.

But Pemberton's camp said there must first be a "deliberate or conscious choice of a means of execution that insures the offender's safety from retaliatory act" from the victim before an act can be considered as a qualifying circumstance in murder.

Pemberton's camp also cited the Supreme Court ruling in the case of People v. Cajurao, which states that "treachery cannot be supposed where no particulars are known as to how the killing began."

Likewise, they said there was no direct evidence presented during preliminary investigation to show how the alleged attack was commenced and executed.

Further, the plea said mere surmises and conjectures from supposed witnesses were used during the initial probe, even as the object and documentary evidence presented were inadmissible.

Pemberton's camp also said there is cruelty only when the other injuries or wounds are inflicted deliberately by an offender, which are not necessary for the killing of the victim.

"Further, the victim must be alive when the other injuries or wounds were inflicted," read the petition.

Pemberton is accused of killing the 26-year-old transgender woman, who was found dead inside a lodge in Olongapo City in October this year. She was last seen with Pemberton whom she reportedly met at a bar.

Pemberton was earlier transferred from the US Navy ship USS Peleliu docked in Subic to a US facility in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

'Nothing new'

Meanwhile, lawyer Harry Roque, legal counsel of the Laude family, said there was nothing new in the arguments raised by Pemberton's camp in the petition.

“This petition is just a rehash of arguments already raised before the Olongapo Fiscal Office,” Roque said in a text message to GMA News Online.

Roque was referring to the defense's comment on the murder complaint filed by the Philippine National Police against Pemberton on October 15.

Just last week, the Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office said that after conducting a preliminary investigation, they found probable cause to file a murder case against the US serviceman before the court.

Roque said the element of treachery is not a prerequisite for a crime to be qualified as murder.

“The evidence of murder are all based on forensics and science,” Roque said.

He said they will submit an opposition against Pemberton's petition for review by early January.

Murder raps vs. Pemberton

On December 15, Pemberton was charged with murder before the sala of Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74.

Last Friday, the US Marine made his very first appearance in court, and also underwent booking procedures although his arraignment did not push through after his camp filed a motion to suspend the proceedings.

The US Embassy in Manila has repeatedly maintained Pemberton would remain under US custody despite being detained in a Philippine facility.

The prosecution on Monday has asked Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde to inhibit herself from hearing the murder case, after they found out that the judge was a classmate of Pemberton's counsel, lawyer Rowena Flores, at the San Beda College Law School. — with Elizabeth Marcelo/RSJ/NB, GMA News


FROM PHILSTAR

Pemberton: No murder By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 23, 2014 - 12:00am 6 216 googleplus1 0


PEMBERTON

MANILA, Philippines - The murder case filed against US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton for the death of a Filipino transgender was “based on nothing but conjectures and speculations” and should be dismissed, his lawyer said in a petition filed yesterday with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

This developed as the Olongapo City court handling the controversial case deferred until Jan. 5 next year its ruling on the Pemberton camp’s petition to suspend hearing.

Through his lawyer Rowena Garcia-Flores, Pemberton asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to review the Dec. 15 resolution of a panel of Olongapo City prosecutors chaired by Emilie delos Santos finding probable cause for charging the Marine with murder for the death of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude last Oct. 11.

“Not only is the assailed resolution full of logical leaps and unwarranted conclusions, it also disregarded the fundamental principles pertaining to treachery as a qualifying circumstance in the crime of murder,” read the 33-page petition.

Pemberton’s lawyer claimed that there was “no direct evidence to show how the alleged attack was commenced and executed.”

Laude was found dead inside a rented room he shared with Pemberton on the night of Oct. 11 in Olongapo City. The pair had some drinks at a nearby bar before they checked into the Celzone Lodge.

Pemberton reportedly admitted killing Laude to his fellow Marines.

“There was no evidence presented as to the details of the purported assault during the preliminary investigation other than the surmises and conjectures of the supposed witnesses and the baseless conclusions of the (Office of the City Prosecutor) using object and documentary evidence, most of which are even inadmissible,” Pemberton said through his lawyer.

Pemberton’s camp also said there must first be a “deliberate or conscious choice of a means of execution that insures the offender’s safety from retaliatory act” from the victim before an act can be considered murder.

His lawyer also questioned the prosecutors’ claim of cruelty in the commission of the offense.

She pointed out that there is cruelty only when the other injuries or wounds are inflicted deliberately by an offender, which are not necessary for the killing of the victim.

“Further, the victim must be alive when the other injuries or wounds were inflicted,” his lawyer added.

The murder case was filed with the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74, which had issued an arrest warrant against Pemberton.

A petition for review in the DOJ, however, is a legal option for the accused in criminal cases. The justice secretary will either affirm or reverse the findings of the prosecutors.

Judge’s inhibition sought

In Olongapo, prosecutors yesterday asked Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde to inhibit from the murder case.

Private prosecutors led by Harry Roque Jr., counsel of Laude family, said the judge should inhibit considering her link with Flores, Pemberton’s lawyer.

He said Judge Jabalde and Flores were classmates in San Beda law school.

But the camp of the defense countered that the husband of Jabalde and the head of the prosecution panel were also classmates at Manuel L. Quezon University College of Law.

Meanwhile, Jabalde set for resolution on Jan. 5 the motion of Pemberton seeking suspension of proceedings.

Pemberton wanted the court hearings suspended pending resolution of his petition for review in the DOJ.

But prosecutors opposed the plea, arguing that it would just delay the proceedings. They pointed out that the trial of the American serviceman should be completed within one year under the Visiting Forces Agreement or else he would be freed.

The court has also submitted for resolution the other motions of private prosecutors seeking to transfer Pemberton to the city jail and to allow media coverage of the trial.

Public prosecutors, however, did not support such moves by the private lawyers.

Roque and the other prosecution lawyer, Virginia Suarez, expressed belief there is “overwhelming evidence” to convince any judge of the guilt of Pemberton.

Suarez said they are ready to file opposition to the petitions of the Pemberton camp also on Jan. 5.

She said they also want the judge to book Pemberton for arraignment as soon as possible.

Jabalde, in the last hearing, issued a commitment order for the accused to remain in detention at the Mutual Defense Board Security Engagement Facility at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Pemberton appeared in court and met the family of Laude for the first time last Friday.

He was in handcuffs and escorted by US and Filipino soldiers. He did not show up in court yesterday.

When news of Laude’s death reached his superiors, Pemberton was held on the amphibious assault vessel USS Peleliu then docked in Subic Bay. Pemberton was among the more than 3,000 US soldiers and sailors who took part in a joint US-Philippine military exercise in Subic Bay.

Pemberton was later transferred to a refurbished and air-conditioned shipping container within the Mutual Defense Board Security Engagement Facility at Camp Aguinaldo.

Custody battle

The US earlier emphasized it would not turn over Pemberton to Philippine authorities, citing provisions of the VFA.

After initially pressing for local custody of the 19-year old Marine, the Department of Foreign Affairs later relented, saying the US position was “not inconsistent” with the VFA.

But Roque said “the court is an independent branch of government and should be the one to decide on the matter of custody of the accused.”

Earlier, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said they were working out a “common interpretation” of the VFA with Philippine authorities.

Goldberg said there is a need for a mutually acceptable interpretation of some provisions in the VFA to resolve the differences arising from the murder case.

“That (custody issue) is something that has been talked about last few days and I think it is misinterpreted,” Goldberg said in an interview on ANC on Thursday.

“What we are trying to do is to avoid any differences, to try to work together with the Philippine government, with the judicial authorities to make sure that the VFA has a common interpretation and that we move forward to make sure that justice is done in the case,” he said.

Several quarters have condemned the Philippine government’s failure to insist on local custody of Pemberton.

In a statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines said it “joins the Filipino people in condemning the US government and military for rejecting the Philippine government’s request to have custody of US marine serviceman Joseph Scott Pemberton.” It also renewed its call for the abrogation of the VFA.

The CPP also scored the Philippine government for what it described as “torpid” response to the US position and for its refusal to assert full jurisdiction over the murder case. – Bebot Sison Jr.


FROM PHILSTAR

Ona smells politics in ouster By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 24, 2014 - 12:00am 9 123 googleplus0 0


ONA

MANILA, Philippines - Finally breaking his silence, former health secretary Enrique Ona yesterday blamed politics for his being eased out of the Aquino administration.

“I’m sure there is politics there, among other things. I’m not a politician. Being a secretary of health is enough for me. I have absolutely no political ambition and that has been my solid position ever since,” Ona told The STAR.

He refused to elaborate but recalled having told a colleague that the Department of Health is a good jumping board to the Senate.

“DOH is a good platform, just like what happened to Sen. (Juan) Flavier. Health is very important and I believe that we really need a doctor at the Senate,” he added.

Flavier’s popularity as DOH secretary during the Ramos administration enabled him to top the senatorial race in 1998.

Ona said he opted to remain silent despite the various accusations against him concerning the DOH’s purchase of an anti-pneumonia vaccine and clinical trials for possible dengue treatment.

“I decided to be quiet despite the back and forth allegations. We are all under government, under the Office of the President and it is not proper to trade statements, especially in the media,” he said.

Ona admitted that he was being advised by some well-meaning friends to speak up because “the public is fed with wrong information.”

He, however, claimed feeling no rancor against President Aquino, who recruited him into the Cabinet when he was director of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in June 2010.

“In terms of our position at the Cabinet, we serve at the pleasure of the President. I just cannot accept that many accusations are coming from my department – just because I’m on leave. And if the full trust and confidence (of the President) is no longer there, it’s best to give my resignation,” he added.

At 75, Ona said he has come to realize that he wants to spend more time with his family, although he is ruling out retirement.


FROM PHILSTAR

P-Noy accepts Lacson resignation (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 24, 2014 - 12:00am 5 53 googleplus0 0


LACSON

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino yesterday accepted the resignation of Panfilo Lacson as presidential assistant for recovery and reconstruction (PARR) effective February next year.

“We agreed in principle to wind up my duties as PARR by Feb. 10, when I shall have completed the transition to NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council), where the four-phase cycle of addressing disasters rightfully belongs,” Lacson said in a text message disseminated by Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

Lacson and Aquino had a conversation yesterday where he discussed with the President the timeliness of the transition.

Lacson pointed out the NDRRMC would be under mandatory review by Congress on or before May 27, 2015 under Republic Act No. 10121, or the law creating the disaster preparedness agency.

“We had a good talk,” Lacson said, adding he explained to the President the wisdom of strengthening the NDRRMC.

Lacson stressed the importance of the NDRRMC, especially in the area of rehabilitation and recovery, which he admitted was the biggest gap among the four thematic areas, namely: prevention and mitigation, under the Department of Science and Technology; Department of the Interior and Local Government for preparedness; response and relief for the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for rehabilitation and recovery.

Lacson said during their conversation that he proposed to the President to elevate the Office of Civil Defense administrator/executive director of the NDRRMC as co-vice chair with the NEDA director general to handle rehabilitation in a permanent capacity.

“I also suggested the automatic release of the budget (P80 billion for 2015) by (the Department of Budget and Management) to NDRRMC to limit the vetting to one layer, unlike the practice now wherein the national government agencies request for funds from DBM for vetting, after which the latter will have to endorse the same to NDRRMC for a second round of vetting, before referring to (the Office of the) PARR,” Lacson said.

“The President was intently listening and taking notes,” he said.

Coloma earlier confirmed Lacson had tendered his resignation as head of the OPARR.

But Coloma clarified the resignation was included in the transition proposal that the OPARR submitted to Aquino last week.

Lacson explained he wanted out as rehabilitation czar because he already did his job and it was now time to transfer OPARR’s task to permanent government agencies, such as the NDRRMC, that would implement the rehabilitation phase of the government’s build-back-better programs for areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Lacson also said the scope of the NDRRMC should be expanded for it to be able to fulfill its mandate and rehabilitate areas that have been devastated by calamities.


FROM PHILSTAR

Enrile asks for 'Hari ng Tondo' viewing for Christmas By Dennis Carcamo (philstar.com) | Updated December 24, 2014 - 11:03am 0 0 googleplus0 0


"Hari ng Tondo" (2014) was directed by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, a nephew of detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.

MANILA, Philippines — The camp of detained Senator Juan Ponce requested the Philippine National Police for a film showing inside the PNP General Hospital on Thursday, Christmas Day.

Actress Bibeth Orteza asked the PNP to show the movie "Hari ng Tondo" from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. where Enrile is staying, reports said on Wednesday.

Once allowed, Enrile's families, close friends and relatives will view the movie with him. "Hari ng Tondo" was directed by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Enrile's nephew.

The PNP said that only the family members of Enrile requested to watch the screening but they could invite other patients inside the hospital to see movie.

Enrile is facing plunder and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.


FROM PHILSTAR

Yearender: SC tussles with Palace anew over DAP, ‘pork’ By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 24, 2014 - 12:00am 4 186 googleplus0 0


Sereno

MANILA, Philippines - In 2014 the Supreme Court (SC) again asserted its supremacy over a co-equal branch of government, with no less than President Aquino on the receiving end.

After striking down the pork barrel funds of lawmakers, the SC declared unconstitutional certain acts and practices under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) last July.

The SC justices unanimously held in a 92-page decision that the DAP violated the constitutional provision on the separation of powers and prohibition on inter-branch transfer of appropriations.

The court held that while recipients cannot be held liable for benefiting from programs, activities and projects done in good faith under the DAP, the proponents and those who implement it could not be instantly cleared of culpabilities.

The ruling angered the President, who even issued an indirect threat of impeachment against the justices. Aquino’s allies in the House also initiated moves to abolish the Judicial Development Fund.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, however, stressed judicial independence in her public engagements. “I don’t serve presidents,” she told foreign correspondents in one forum.

Cybercrime Law

Apart from the DAP, Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act and RA 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act went through scrutiny of the SC.

Last February, the SC watered down the Cybercrime Law when it voided some provisions for being unconstitutional.

The high court also voided section 7 of the law, which allows prosecution of online libel and child pornography under RA 10175 and the Revised Penal Code, saying it violates the constitutional right against double jeopardy.

The SC also struck down as unconstitutional three other provisions of the law – Section 4 (c) (3), which penalizes unsolicited commercial communication; Section 12, authorizing the collection or recording of traffic data in real time; and Section 19, authorizing the Department of Justice to restrict or block access to suspected computer data.

RH Law

In its summer session in Baguio City last April, the SC settled the debate on the legality of RH Law when it voted unanimously to uphold most of the provisions in the law.

Eight provisions and its implementing rules and regulations were, however, declared unconstitutional, including penalizing health workers who fail or refuse to disseminate information on RH programs regardless of religious beliefs, healthcare providers who refuse to refer non-emergency patients to another facility regardless of religious beliefs, health workers who require parental consent from minors in non-emergency cases, and public officials who refuse to support RH programs regardless of religion.

The high court also voided provisions that require private hospitals owned by religious groups to refer patients to other health facilities and allow minors who suffered miscarriage to access modern family planning methods without the consent of parents.

Tax collections

Last April, the High Court stopped the Bureau of Internal Revenue from implementing Regulation 4-2014, which requires self-employed professionals to submit affidavit indicating their rates and register their official appointment books.

In September, the SC stopped the government from requiring companies to disclose the names and tax records of their shareholders.

Another temporary restraining order stopped the submission of the tax identification number of the shareholders of companies with their complete names and corresponding amounts of income and withholding tax.

Relocation of oil depots

The oil sector also had its share of the SC’s cracking the whip when it voted 10-2 in November, ordering the Manila city government to implement the relocation of the oil depot in Pandacan within six months.

The SC ruled as unconstitutional a Manila city ordinance that reclassified the area as a heavy industrial zone.

RP-US relations

The SC also weighed in on cases involving relations between the Philippines and the United States.

It heard in two-part oral arguments petitions assailing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Petitioners led by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada said the EDCA is a treaty, which requires legislative concurrence for entry of foreign troops and facilities in the country.

The SC justices dismissed a writ of Kalikasan petition for the review of the Visiting Forces Agreement over the grounding of US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef in January last year.

The SC also denied the plea of groups led by Puerto Princesa, Palawan Bishop Pedro Arigo for higher penalties against the US government and criminal prosecution of US Navy officials liable for the incident.

The SC applied the principle of state immunity from suit in junking the petition against US Seventh Fleet commander Scott Swift, Guardian commanding officer Mark Rice and US Marine Corps Forces head for Pacific region Lt. Gen. Terry Robling.

Gregory Ong

The high tribunal dealt with cases involving the judiciary, among them the dismissal of Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong over alleged links with suspected pork barrel fund mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

The high court found Ong guilty of gross misconduct, dishonesty and impropriety, making him the first justice of the anti-graft court to be dismissed.

The administrative case against Ong involved the sale of 500 Kevlar helmets to the Philippine Marines in 1998. The Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division handled the case, where Ong sat as member.

The SC cited the finding that Ong met with Napoles twice at her office after the anti-graft court division acquitted her in the case.

SALNs

In November, the SC granted the request of BIR Commissioner Kim Henares for the certified copies of the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of justices of the anti-graft court.

The BIR requested copies of the SALNs for 2003 to 2012, but the high court allowed the bureau to only get copies for the last three years.

The SC also released the SALNs of its justices last July, which showed that Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo is the richest magistrate with a net worth of over P122.21 million, up by over P12 million from P109.74 million in the previous year.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen had the smallest net worth at P1.81 million last year, slightly up from his P1.67 million in 2012.

Ma’am Arlene

Last July, the SC ordered an investigation of four regional trial court judges implicated in the controversy involving alleged case fixing and influence peddling in the judiciary by a certain “Ma’am Arlene.”

It was The STAR that broke the story, describing “Ma’am Arlene” as judiciary’s version of Napoles.

Investigated were Judge Rommel Baybay of Makati City of RTC Branch 132; Judge Ralph Lee, Quezon City RTC Branch 83; Judge Marino Rubia of Biñan, Laguna RTC Branch 24, and Judge Lyliha Aquino of Manila RTC Branch 24.

The high court had initially traced the source of the reports to a supposed smear campaign in the electoral contest in the Philippine Judges Association, whose officers had denied involvement in the controversy.

Jardeleza

Voting 7-4 last August, the justices reversed the decision of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to exclude Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza as a nominee to the high tribunal due to alleged “integrity issues.”

The JBC excluded Jardeleza in the shortlist for the vacancy left by the retirement of Associate Justice Roberto Abad even if he garnered enough votes to make it to the shortlist.

Reports attributed the exclusion to a rivalry between Jardeleza and Sereno, who belonged to opposing blocs in the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Reforms

The year that passed also witnessed the SC working to institute lasting reforms in the judiciary, including speeding up the resolution of cases in the high tribunal.

“Before promulgation, we make sure our decisions are consistent with previous rulings of the court,” Sereno told The STAR.

In the new system, the justices would check a decision in relation to previous rulings to determine if there are inconsistencies.

The SC also implemented new programs this year to speed up court processes through electronic systems, including the e-subpoena system launched last April.

Two Quezon City trial courts are now using automated hearings system where orders and resolutions are issued in real time and on the same day.

The Court also launched the continuous trial system in 24 pilot courts.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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