By Sunday Post
The issue of corruption in the Court of Appeals which resulted in the sacking of one of its members while four others were meted out with varying sanctions ranging from suspension to admonition has caught the interest of three local lawyers of different calibers whose reactions were sought on the state of the Bohol judiciary.
The three attorneys—Victor de la Serna, Isabelo Sales, Jr. and Alexander Lim, were picked from the hundreds of lawyers all over Bohol for their own commentaries regarding the impact of the bribery scandal hounding the appellate court.
But for all their divergent reputation in the practice of law, all three lawyers were unanimous in their pronouncement that the Bohol judiciary which is made up of judges and prosecutors are generally free from corruption.
De la Serna, a bar topnotcher, was chosen on the basis of his extensive knowledge of the law considering the scope of his practice which expended from the US to Manila and then Bohol. Among the three lawyers, only de la Serna can claim extensive exposure to the practice of his calling because it expended beyond the Philippine shores. He is a member of the California Bar.
Sales was asked of his comment in his capacity as president of the Integrated Bar, Bohol chapter.
For his part, Lim was chosen from among his peers of competent lawyers, due to his reputation as the most sought after lawyer hereabouts. It's public knowledge that even if Lim is known to be one of the expensive legal counsels around, he is considered the darling of litigants given his track record.
But this Filipino-Chinese lawyer did not escape suspicion from among lawyers that he is a popular law practitioner not because of his capability of handling cases but his propensity to cultivate the right connections in the right places.
Although he did not deny this wrong perception as claimed by members of the local Bar, Lim said if he is the favorite of litigants compared to other lawyers it is because he knows the law.
But Lim denied the insinuation that he won cases not because on its merits but because he knows the judges and fiscals.
He took exception to the widely known dictum among lawyers. This saying which Lim denied to have enjoyed was the one that differentiates between a good lawyer and a great lawyer. It says a good lawyer knows his law while a great lawyer knows the judge.
While admitting that he was a victim of the unsavory perception, Lim maintained that out of professional jealousy some people have the wrong notion that he won cases because he knows the judge.
An Ateneo graduate, Lim said on the whole, judges and fiscals in Bohol are basically honest.
Although he mentioned of a few recalcitrant magistrates and prosecutors, those who were involved in improprieties were isolated cases. He did not elaborate.
DE LA SERNA
On the part of de la Serna, he said the recent bribery scandal that has shattered the public image and credibility of the Court of Appeals has only confirmed the malignant cancer that has infected the country's judicial system for so long a time now.
The topnotcher lawyer apparently knew whereof he spoke.
A long time practicing lawyer in the nation's capital, de la Serna can rattle off the corrupt judges in the CA and the regional trial courts in Metro Manila.
He said it is common knowledge among Manila-based lawyers who are the so-called runners and brokers of CA and RTC judges in Manila.
He, however, took exception to insinuations that some local judges and prosecutors are tainted with corruption charges.
He said that in Bohol, there's no way that judges and ficals will have the temerity to fix cases knowing this is one place where everybody knows everybody.
At the first sign that a judge was perceived to be corruptible, the issue will immediately spread and the erring magistrate will not escape the curse and wrath of a vigilant public.
Going back to his thesis on corrupt CA justices, de la Serna said while corruption by many judges and justices was spoken more in whispers among lawyers before, this incident has blown wide open judicial corruption to the general public.
The Supreme Court acting on the recommendation of a three-man panel it created handed the penalty of dismissal from the service of Justice Vicente Roxas. The reason cited was his undue interest in handling the Meralco vs GSIS which resulted in his favorable decision to the giant power utility company.
The High Court also suspended for two months Justice Jose Sabio, Jr. while three others were handed varying sanctions ranging from reprimand to admonition for their involvement in the controversial case.
IBP PREXY POSITION
Reacting to the fate that befall the five justices, the IBP-Bohol followed the line espoused by its national chapter. Calling for drastic action, the IBP national chapter through its president called for the resignation of all the justices involved.
The full text of the IBP-Bohol statement read:
The position of the IBP national board of governors was for the appellate justices involved in the MERALCO – GSIS controversy to resign from their posts.
From our view, we find no cogent reason to offer dissent to their stand. Obviously, with all the corruption and misdeeds happening in highest places of government, the only remaining bastion of integrity and trust is in our courts. Once this is lost, we can no longer expect fairness and justice even in our courts of law.
Certainly, the rule of the mob is not quite far behind absent the respect for the law.