Manila Standard - Hard pressed for defense

21 December 2020

By Charlie V. Manalo | Manila Standard

"Sitting on cases for more than 36 months or even 60 months is already laziness and malevolent indifference, my friend Larry Gadon says."

As a journalist, I have had the misfortune of being slapped with libel cases countless times. These are aside from the cases I had to face in the course of my involvement in some kind of movement some time ago. As such, I can attest to the fact that courts now handle cases so much different than they did a decade ago.

Before, instances of respondents and plaintiffs outliving their cases abound. Hence, journalists like me would pray that cases filed against us would be dismissed at the fiscal level so we would not have to agonize for years attending those libel cases.

The last time I had a case which reached the judge’s sala was in 2018 when a Malaysian who doesn’t know the difference between the words “duped” and “swindle” filed a string of cases against me and my then publisher, the late Ninez Cacho-Olivares. And it took the presiding judge about five months to decide on the case. As I expressed my surprise at the speedy disposition of our case, his staff was quick to retort that there was a directive for courts to expedite resolution of the cases they are handling.

Thus, I was puzzled as to why former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, in his defense for his former colleague, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen against the impeachment case the latter is facing, would say that the 24-month period to come up with a resolution to the case is merely directory and not mandatory. Is he saying now that the judges were not apprised of this so they would be compelled to speedily dispose of the cases they are handling, but Justices like he and Leonen can toy with time in deciding their cases?

Our friend, lawyer Larry Gadon, the counsel for the impeachment complainant against Leonen, Ed Cordevilla, would not agree.

According to Gadon, even assuming that as Carpio says that the 24-month period to come up with a decision on cases submitted for resolution is merely directory and not mandatory, “sitting on cases for more than 36 months or even 60 months is already laziness and malevolent indifference.”

Gadon furthers that Carpio’s argument may find tolerance 30 years ago when legal research work is done manually and each letter of the decision is typed manually for countless hours.

Nowadays, Gadon says, legal research is just at the fingertips of the writer and citing jurisprudence is easily done by copy paste method from the digital portal of the SC itself.

“Even recital of facts alleged by litigants are now easily lifted and rephrased because the SC requires litigants to submit CDs or USBs for every pleading for easier reproduction. Each AJ also maintains legal staff and researchers whose job is to assist the Justices in drafting decisions,” Gadon stresses.

“(And) Certainly, AJ Carpio is not so naive not to know these methods and systems nowadays,” he adds.

In fact given this digital and computer assistance, Gadon says the 24 month-period is already more than long enough. But Respondent Leonen is not yet satisfied with the 24 months idle time that cases rot in his cabinet for three to five years still undecided. And I can only agree as my last libel case was decided in less than five months.

“Retired AJ Carpio, with all his supposed brilliance in law has confused prosecution of crimes over the issue of integrity. A crime committed but not prosecuted may prescribe alright, but the lack of integrity of the perpetrator is not deleted. Integrity or lack of it is forever etched in the character of the person,” Gadon explains.

“Refusal or intentional failure to submit SALN is wanton disregard of the law, a whimsical display of disobedience to the regulations required by law and therefore reflects lack of integrity,” he says.

And if Carpio might have forgotten, it was the lack of integrity which was the ground used for the removal of Sereno not the commission of the crime for non-submission of SALN, according to Gadon.

During the impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, prosecutors then used the case of a clerk of court who was dismissed for failure to report in her SALN that she owns a stall in the public market.

Sereno’s appointment was invalidated due to her SALN issue, so what makes respondent Leonen an exception, Gadon asks.

And apparently Carpio failed to read the whole complaint against Leonen when he mentioned in his column that Leonen’s biases against the Marcoses cannot be a ground for impeachment as Gadon insists nothing about biases on Marcos nor the PET case was not even mentioned.

“This clearly proves that AJ Carpio doesn’t know what he is crowing about,” says Gadon.