Entire CA division withdraws from case involving Romeros
MANILA, Philippines–Even as it ruled that the case was legally insufficient, an entire Court of Appeals division has decided to recuse from a case involving the operations of the Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI) at the Manila South Harbor in the name of judicial integrity.
Members of the appellate court’s former Special Second Division opted to inhibit themselves from handling the case which involves a complex ownership dispute between businessman Reghis Romero II and his son, Mikee, for control of HCTPI, the P3-billion break-bulk cargo port facility.
The case before the appellate court involves a dispute between the elder Romero—who now controls HCTPI after ousting his son from the company in a boardroom coup last year—and One Source Port Support Services Inc., a private company that was hired by HCPTI to manage port operations in 2007.
One Source sought Associate Justice Danton Bueser’s inhibition from the case after the appellate court granted Romero a temporary restraining order, and later a preliminary injunction, to stop One Source’s takeover of the port terminal. This had the effect of putting on hold the enforcement of a Pasig Regional Trial Court ruling evicting the elder Romero’s R-II Builders and R-II Holdings from the port.
Bias for elder Romero
In a motion for inhibition filed on March 20, One Source accused Bueser of unduly favoring the elder Romero, citing how both resolutions granting the TRO and writ of preliminary injunction in favor of the businessman were the magistrate’s ponencias.
One Source cited a “suspicion of bias and partiality” against Bueser, and said it had lost “trust and confidence that it can still obtain a fair treatment in this case” if Bueser continued to sit in the division.
The appellate court, in a resolution that Bueser also wrote, ruled that such grounds were “not legally adequate” to support the recusal of Bueser from the case.
Still, the entire three-member division, including Associate Justices Samuel Gaerlan and Pedro Corrales, opted out of the case to spare the appellate court from further controversy.
“…[S]o as not to unnecessarily drag the name of this court into a useless controversy and in view of the supposed erosion of private respondent’s faith in the justice system as brought to bear thus far upon this case, and mindful too of the duty to promote at every opportunity public confidence in judicial integrity and impartiality, we as members of this division, hereby opt to inhibit ourselves from further participation in these proceedings,” read the resolution dated April 29 and released on Thursday.
“…[I]n view of the adverse media releases against the ponente (Bueser) as well as the filing of inconsequential cases in the Ombudsman thereby unnecessarily dragging the name of this court in useless contretemps, it is eminently necessary that the members of the division graciously recuse from the further handling of this case,” the resolution read.
The development came as the appellate court is trying to fend off the negative publicity over Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ allegations that two appellate members had been bribed to issue a temporary restraining order in favor of Makati Mayor Junjun Binay. The charges are under investigation by the appellate court’s ethics committee.
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