Sunday 24 March, 2019
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SC junks petition for inhibition of judge clearing Imelda Marcos in ill-gotten wealth case

By James Hernandez

The Supreme Court (SC) has junked the petition of late former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez to inhibit Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. for having acquitted Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos over multiple charges of having stashed millions of dollars in alleged ill-gotten wealth in foreign banks.

“Whether or not to voluntarily inhibit from hearing a case is a matter within the judge’s discretion,” read the SC ruling penned by Justice Marvic Leonen.

“Absent clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that the judge will dispense justice in accordance with law and evidence, this Court will not interfere,” it said.

With this, the SC backed the backed the Court of Appeals ruling dated Nov. 24, 2008 which denied the appeal of Chavez to have Pampilo inhibited.

The SC reminded that “this Court has periodically repeated that it shall always presume that a judge will decide on the merits of the cases without bias.”

“Allowing a judge to inhibit without concrete proof of personal interest or any showing that his bias stems from an extrajudicial source will open the floodgates to abuse,” it pointed out.

“No concrete proof of Judge Pampilo’s personal interest was presented. There was no showing that his bias stems from an extrajudicial source. Not only that, but none of his acts, as shown on record, was characterized by any error,” it explained.

Among the allegations, Chavez claims that Marcos would not have been acquitted if he had been allowed to testify.

“Petitioner finds fault in the scheduling of his testimony but fails to show how it was irregular. Her characterizes the scheduling as ‘noose-tightening,’ for being scheduled on ‘unreasonably proximate’ dates. Far from the scheduling being evidence of partiality, it was aligned with this Court’s rules on expeditious disposition of cases and the mandatory continuous trial system,” the SC stated.

“Petitioner also claims that Judge Pampilo could have accommodated the prosecution’s request for postponement, but he did not. However, Judge Pampilo’s reluctance in sanctioning further delays and in denying motions to postpone hearings was also in accordance with the rules on the expeditious resolution of cases. This Court cannot assume bias or arbitrariness based on the denial of requests of postponement,” it also said.

The SC said “fatal errors that should have been avoided by veteran litigators, such as a habit of postponements and a lack of preparation, cannot be papered over by a labyrinth of appeals that reaches this Court.”

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