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The Manila Times - Corruption at the Supreme Court?

News & Interviews
25 October 2020

By Mauro Gia Samonte | The Manila Times

Soon after I touched on the lament of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. over the apparent freeze Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen has executed over Marcos’ electoral protest against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, I witnessed a phenomenal frequency of stories on the issue. Top on the list is Jomar Canlas’ series on Leonen’s reported circulation among Supreme Court justices of his so-called “reflections” on how the protest was to be viewed, hence, to be decided.

This instant discussion is not at all about the Bongbong protest; I have made my say enough on the issue.

Still, it was my initial touching on that protest that evidently brought me to the attention of somebody who wants to get attention for a similar delay a case at the Supreme Court has been getting for a long time now.

The guy, claiming to be in the staff of a law firm but who begs to remain anonymous, informs this column about a case at the Supreme Court involving one Felix Chua on the one hand and the United Coconut Planters Bank and the Asset Pool A (SPV-AMC) on the other.

“I believe this case can be used as future reference on how the moneyed ones can run around the judicial system, in utter disrespect of the law and the courts,” the guy tells me.
If only in the spirit of fair play, I am giving way to the guy’s narrative on the issue:
“The case arose from a joint venture agreement entered into by the Chuas with Gotesco Properties Inc. on March 3, 1997 for the development of the couple’s 44-hectare property in Lucena City. Though in the course of events the project did not materialize, the parties had meantime found themselves signing a Memorandum of Agreement with the United Coconut Planters Bank for consolidation of the obligations of the Chuas and one Jose Go, representing Lucena Grand Central Terminal Inc. (LGCTI) with assets worth P204 million.

The parties agreed to deduct P103 million from the said amount to accrue to the Chuas in exchange for 30 parcels of land including the improvements thereon, with the remaining balance of P68 million to be converted by UCPB into equity interest in LGCTI.

“On Nov. 11, 2003, the Chuas wrote UCPB to seek an accounting of Go’s liabilities that had been mistakenly secured by the mortgage of their properties and a list of the properties subject of their real estate mortgage for re­appraisal.

“But sometime in 2004, despite the fact that there was already a pending case filed by the Chuas to recover their property, SPV-AMC acquired the property in question from the UCPB, in full knowledge of the case at hand.

“The Lucena City Regional Trial court then ruled that the loan obligations of the Chuas were fully paid, which was upheld by the Supreme Court.

“The High Court’s Special Third Division, led by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, ordered UCPB to return to the couple ‘the equivalent of 49.44 percent of the total area of the 30 parcels of land involved in the transactions, estimated at P200 million,’” which was in excess of the amount of the loan originally secured by the Chuas.

“On August 16, 2017, the tribunal ruled that UCPB committed bank fraud when it assigned Go’s loan obligation amounting to P404 million involving the Lucena Grand Terminal to the couple without their consent, ordering UCPB to return to the Chuas their property titles amounting to P200 million, aside from the interest and additional costs incurred in the proceedings of the case.

“Expectedly, UCPB and SPV-AMC filed their motions for reconsideration that would trigger a series of never-ending appeals.

“The SC denied UCPB’s first motion for reconsideration on Dec. 17, 2018.

“Representatives of UCPB and SPV-AMC filed succeeding motions — a Joint Motion for Leave of court to file and Admit the Appended Motion for Reconsideration filed on February 18, 2019; a Joint Motion to Refer the Case to the court en Banc on February 26, 2019; a Joint Motion for Leave of Court to file and Admit the Enclosed Supplemental Joint Second Motion for Reconsideration on March 29, 2019; and a Motion to Resolve Jurisdictional Threshold Issue to Refer the Case to the Court en Banc on July 5, 2019.

“On July 24, 2019 the Special Third Division of the High Court issued a resolution denying with finality the Joint Second Motion for being a prohibited pleading, at the same time issuing a warning that no further pleadings, motions, letters or other communications shall be entertained as an Entry of Judgment is to be issued immediately.

“However, despite the court’s warning, the representatives of both UCPB and SPV-AMC, on August 28, 2019, filed a Reiterative Motion to Resolve Jurisdictional Threshold Issue to Refer the Case to the Court en Banc.

“And on October 24, 2019, representatives of UCPB and SPV-AMC again filed a Very Urgent Motion for the Court en Banc to Assume Jurisdiction Over G.R. No. 215999 and to Consolidate Said Case with A.M. No. 18-08-18-SC.

“On January this year, the Special Third Division of the High Court delivered what was supposed to be the last nail on the coffin of the case when it issued a resolution stating that all the aforesaid motions filed by UCPB and SPV-AMC were expunged from the records of the case, thus reiterating that no further pleadings, motions, letters or other communications shall be entertained regarding the case.

“But again, despite the warning that no pleadings shall be filed, UCPB, on June 16, 2020, filed a Very Urgent Motion for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order/Status Quo Order asking the Lucena Regional Trial Court to restrain from enforcing the Writ of Execution issued on June 3, 2020.”

Honestly, I feel like choking on the narrative that indeed does not seem to know where to stop. So, I need to stop just to gather my breath.

Until this case was revealed to me, I had not known of any instance in jurisprudence where the Supreme Court, after having issued an order that is final and executory, had to bend backward in order to accommodate one more appeal after another.

I have had an occasion where a complaint I lodged against an Antipolo RTC sheriff who I alleged had wrongfully demolished my house in 2005 had gone up to the Supreme Court. I had the impression that once the Supreme Court said so, that’s it, that’s final and enforceable. So, when the Supreme Court ruled in my case that the sheriff was not in the wrong, I took it hook, line and sinker, so to speak, holding up my arms in utter surrender — no matter that I lost my house.

Sure, I felt very badly then, thrown into a realization that the country’s judicial system has really been crafted to favor only those who could buy justice.

Yet in the case above, the complaining aggrieved party is definitely far from being poor, what with millions of pesos in the bank and land holdings measuring tens of hectares. Still they cry: “Justice delayed, justice denied.”

And then, again, there is Bongbong, for all of his family’s touted “Marcos gold,” languishing in torment over the imminence of losing the vice presidency just the same after endless months of waiting.

What ails the Supreme Court?

Search me.