Sandiganbayan affirms decision not to inhibit justices in plunder case.
By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan has affirmed its decision not to inhibit the Sixth Division justices handling the plunder case of former Bureau of Immigration (BI) Deputy Commissioners Al C. Argosino and Michael Robles.
On January 28, the anti-graft court issued a resolution denying the motions to inhibit filed by Argosino and Robles, who also wanted their case re-raffled to other Sandiganbayan divisions, so they filed their motions for reconsideration.
Robles argued that they have "lack of faith" in the Sixth Division after they were illegally deprived of liberty, and he pinpointed at Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez for being "way too zealous" to detain them.
"Any doubt in the actions of a judge or justice, which lessens or diminishes the trust and faith of the parties in the court's impartiality, is sufficient ground for the inhibition of such judge or justice," Robles stressed.
Meanwhile, Argosino stated the same arguments. He even added that the court paid heed to the "hearsay evidence" of Gen. Charles Calima, and that is why he was identified as the main plunderer.
However, the anti-graft court denied their MRs, since there was no deprivation of liberty despite their claims. Even though Argosino and Robles were unhappy with the resolutions of the court denying their motions to quash and motions to post bail, it does not necessarily mean that the justices acted with partiality.
"At the risk of repetition, this Court must reiterate that allegedly erroneous adverse rulings, by themselves, do not sufficiently prove bias and prejudice to disqualify a judge or justice. Such bias and partiality must be established by extrinsic evidence," the court ruled.
In their earlier motion, Argosino and Robles insisted that Associate Justice Fernandez should be kept from handling their case since she was the former classmate of Atty. Laurence Hector B. Arroyo, the counsel of another one their co-accused - Asian Gaming
Association, Inc. (AGSPA) President Wenceslao Sombero Jr.
As for Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Zaldy Trespeses, it was Argosino who wanted to inhibit them "on the grounds of partiality, bias, and unfairness." He said their partiality can be gleaned on their resolutions, which kept him from posting bail for his plunder charge and refusing to quash his charges.
The three of them are facing a violation of R.A. 7080
or the act defining and penalizing plunder, as well as violations of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code or Bribery, and P.D. 46, which prohibits the giving of gifts to public employees.
I t may be recalled that the accused were reportedly involved in the extortion of P50 million from 1,316 arrested Chinese nationals who were violating Philippine immigration laws.
Former Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Al Argosino (Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)