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The Court of Appeals has appointed a new set of magistrates to investigate Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ accusations of bribery against the justices who granted Makati Mayor Junjun Binay’s petition to stop his preventive suspension by the Ombudsman.
This came after three member justices of the appellate court’s committee on ethics and special concerns inhibited themselves from the case. Some of the justices reportedly have social ties with the Binays.
In an office order dated May 14, Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. appointed Associate Justice Sesinando Villon as the new committee chair and Associate Justices Carmelita Salandanan Manahan and Ma. Luisa Quijano Padilla as members.
Associate Justices Franchito Diamante and Manuel Barrios, both members of the original five, remain in the committee.
The new investigating body was given 30 days from receipt of the order to finish the probe.
Three members of the original five-member committee—Justices Mariflor Punzalan-Castillo, the chair, and members Jane Aurora Lantion and Francisco Acosta—have inhibited themselves from the case.
Acosta, who was one of the two justices accused by Trillanes, reportedly recused himself because he is one of the two magistrates being investigated.
Castillo and Lantion are said to have social ties with the Binays, but it could not be immediately verified if this was why they recused themselves as the appellate court did not make their reasons public.
“A committee is hereby created and directed to conduct a thorough investigation of the enclosed Senate Resolution No. 1265,” read the order from Reyes.
This was in reference to the Senate resolution Trillanes had filed in April, alleging that Binay had paid P25 million each to Sixth Division Associate Justices Jose Reyes Jr. and Acosta to secure a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction against his suspension.
The Ombudsman had ordered the mayor’s six-month preventive suspension while the latter was being investigated in connection with the allegedly overpriced P2.3-billion Makati City Hall Building II.
A petition that the Ombudsman filed against the appellate court proceedings on Binay’s suspension is pending at the .
Court Administrator Midas Marquez said in an interview on Thursday that the New Code of Judicial Conduct contained provisions recommending the decorum that judges and justices must follow.
While the canons do not specifically contain a prohibition against having ties with politicians, justices must be careful in their interactions outside the court.
“Judges and justices are not expected to live the lives of a hermit or a life of seclusion. Of course, they should also interact, interrelate with others in the community,” Marquez said.
“They are supposed to be aware of the national concerns and developments, but they should be very careful in interacting with others because, of course, many cases are pending before them,” he added.
He said magistrates “should not provide any instance that may influence their decisions or resolutions.”x x x."
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