By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the legality of the 2008 decision of the Manila regional trial court (RTC) that acquitted former First Lady and now Rep. Imelda R. Marcos of dollar salting.
In a decision written by Justice Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen, the SC ruled:
“The Regional Trial Court Decision dated May 28, 2007 and promulgated on March 10, 2008 was not issued in violation of the Court of Appeals (CA) writ of injunction. When this Regional Trial Court Decision was promulgated, the writ of injunction had already been dissolved.”
Case records showed that the government, through the late former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez, sought the inhibition of Manila RTC Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. from further proceeding with the cases against Mrs. Marcos for alleged bias.
When Pampilo denied Chavez’s motion, the latter elevated the issue before the CA which issued an injunction that stopped the proceedings. Later, the CA denied Chavez’s petition in a decision dated Feb. 28, 2008.
With the denial of the petition, Chavez filed a motion to reconsider the decision and to nullify the RTC’s decision that acquitted Mrs. Marcos of the dollar salting charges.
Chavez claimed that the acquittal was in violation of the CA’s injunction.
In its Nov. 24, 2008 resolution, the CA denied the motion for reconsideration and the plea for the nullification of the acquittal decision by the RTC. The CA ruled that the prayer for nullification was improper because it was not covered in the original petition filed by Chavez on Pampilo’s inhibition.
In acquitting Mrs. Marcos, the SC said the RTC “noted that the documents presented were photocopies and that the prosecution had not established any basis for presenting them instead of the original documents.”
Thus, the SC said “the RTC found that the prosecution failed to present competent proof of the alleged offense and of the conspiracy among the accused.”
On the CA’s decision denying Chavez’s petition, the SC said: “The decision denying the petition for certiorari carried with it a contrary order dissolving the injunction. Petitioner (Chavez) fails to address this point and does not show how it is an error of law.”
“Thus, the argument that a subsisting injunction was violated is clearly frivolous, if not misleading, and intended only to make it appear as though the petition has some semblance of basis,” it said.
On the inhibition, the SC said:
“Whether or not to voluntarily inhibit from hearing a case is a matter within the judge’s discretion. Absent clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that the judge will dispense justice in accordance with law and evidence, this Court will not interfere.”
“WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is DENIED. The Court of Appeals February 28, 2008 Decision and November 24, 2008 Resolution in CA-G.R. SP No. 98799 are hereby AFFIRMED,” the SC ruled.