CA to probe Trillanes' bribery claims vs justices

MANILA, Philippines – Acting on bribery allegations against its own justices, the Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered its ethics committee to investigate the "justice for sale" claims made by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV last week.

In a memorandum dated April 16, 2015, CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr directed Justice Mariflor Punzalan Castillo, chair of the appellate court's Committee on Ethics and Special Concerns, to investigate the senator's accusations against Justices Jose Reyes Jr and Francisco Acosta of the 6th Division.

In Senate Resolution 1265 which he filed last week, Trillanes cited "reliable sources privy to the matter" to support his claim that the two justices allegedly got a total of P50 million ($1.12 million) from lawyer Pancho Villaraza.

The money was allegedly given in exchange for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a writ of preliminary injunction stopping the Ombudsman's suspension order against Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr.

Both Villaraza and the CA denied Trillanes' accusations and challenged the senator to present credible proof of his claims.

The appellate court's memorandum ordered Castillo to conduct a thorough investigation on the senator's claims and to submit a report and recommendation within 30 days.

The committee's findings will be submitted to Reyes for approval before being given to the Supreme Court en banc for the final decision.

Under the internal rules of the CA, the ethics committee handles matters involving discipline of its judicial officers, including investigations on complaints against court personnel.

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has the power to discipline judges of lower courts, as provided for in Section 11, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution.

Trillanes' allegations stemmed from the orders issued by the CA stopping the Ombudsman's 6-month preventive suspension against Binay.

The Ombudsman's order was based on a complaint over an alleged overpriced Makati city building.