20  September  2012       TO:   Committee  on  Ethics  and  Ethical  Standards     Supreme  Court  of  the  Republic  of  the

 Philippines     Padre  Faura,  Manila     THRU:   Hon.  Maria  Lourdes  P.A.  Sereno     Chief  Justice  and  Chairperson  of  the  Committee     Supreme  Court  of  the  Republic  of  the  Philippines     RE:   Undeniable  Omissions  and  Factual  Misrepresentations     In  REPUBLIC  V.  COJUANGCO:  The  Mainspring  of  Injustice         MADAM  CHIEF  JUSTICE:     Greeting  of  Peace!     As  the  social  development  arm  of  the  PHILIPPINE  CATHOLIC  CHURCH,  THE  CATHOLIC   BISHOPS  CONFERENCE  OF  THE  PHILIPPINES-­‐NATIONAL  SECRETARIAT  FOR  SOCIAL  ACTION   (CBCP-­‐NASSA)  is  committed  to  the  ongoing  formation  towards  mature  social   consciousness.       Informed  by  the  reality  of  the  sad  plight  of  our  country’s  3.5  million  coconut   farmers,  we  write  to  convey  our  profound  concern  for  their  welfare,  specifically,   their  situation  made  unfortunate  by  the  Court’s  recent  decision  in  Republic  of   the  Philippines  v.  Eduardo  M.  Cojuangco,  Jr.,  et  al.  Bearing  in  mind  that  this   case,  essentially,  involves  the  recovery  of  ill-­‐gotten  wealth—and  morally  consists   in  meeting  the  demands  of  social  justice—we  express  deep  regret  for  the   following  premise:    
Although E.O. No. 1 and the other issuances dealing with illgotten wealth (i.e. E.O. No. 2, E.O. No. 14, and E.O. No. 14-A) only identified the subject matter of ill-gotten wealth and the persons who could amass ill-gotten wealth and did not include an explicit definition of ill-gotten wealth xxx [Emphasis added.]

  Even  as  we  recognize  the  Supreme  Court’s  jurisdiction  over  questions  of  law  and   respect  it  to  be  the  final  interpreter  of  the  laws  of  the  land,  we  write  cognizant  of   the  duty  of  every  citizen  to  know  the  law  and  that  duty’s  corollary  obligation:  as   when  we  should  assert  their  existence  as  an  unquestionable  fact,   notwithstanding  the  Court’s  denial.  Between  one  who  asserts  a  negation  and   another  who  proves  the  reality  of  existence,  there  should  be  no  dispute.     It  is  troubling  that  a  case  for  the  recovery  of  ill-­‐gotten  wealth  would  be  decided   on  a  palpably  erroneous  premise—which  has  resulted  in  disastrous   consequences  for  the  20  million  Filipinos  whose  lives  and  livelihood  depend  on   the  coconut  industry.  The  erroneous  premise  is  made  egregious  by  the  fact  that    

  the  Court’s  own  decision  indicated  the  source  of  the  crucial  definition  whose   existence  it  had  denied.  In  ruling  that  the  “lifting  of  nine  [Writs  of   Sequestration]  for  violation  of  PCGG  Rules  did  not  constitute  grave  abuse  of   discretion”  [Underscoring  added],  the  Court  referred  to  Section  31  of  the  Rules  of   the  PCGG,  promulgated  on  April  11,  1986—but  it  tragically  glossed  over   Section  1,  which  states:    
Section 1. Definition. [A] “Ill-gotten wealth is hereby defined as any asset, property, business enterprise or material possession of persons within the purview of Executive Orders Nos. 1 and 2, acquired by them directly, or indirectly thru dummies, nominees, agents, subordinates and/or business associates by any of the following means or similar schemes: (1) Through misappropriation, conversion, misuse or malversation of public funds or raids on the public treasury; (2) Through the receipt, directly or indirectly, of any commission, gift, share, percentage, kickbacks or any other form of pecuniary benefit from any person and/or entity in connection with any government contract or project or by reason of the office or position of the official concerned; (3) By the illegal or fraudulent conveyance or disposition of assets belonging to the government or any of its subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities or governmentowned or controlled corporations; (4) By obtaining, receiving or accepting directly or indirectly any shares of stock, equity or any other form of interest or participation in any business enterprise or undertaking; (5) Through the establishment of agricultural, industrial or commercial monopolies or other combination and/or by the issuance, promulgation and/or implementation of decrees and orders intended to benefit particular persons or particular interests; and (6) By taking undue advantage of official position, authority, authority, relationship or influence for personal gain or benefit.

  Despite  Rule  10.2  of  Canon  10  of  the  Code  of  Professional  Responsibility,  which   states  that  lawyers  shall  not  “knowingly  misquote  or  misrepresent  the  contents   of  xxx  the  text  of  a  decision  or  authority  xxx  or  knowingly  assert  as  a  fact  that   which  has  not  yet  been  proved,”  the  Court  ignored  the  above-­‐mentioned  section   and  proceeded  to  quote,  as  follows—in  start  contrast  to  the  text  of  its  source:    
Republic v. Cojuangco (citing Baseco): In time and unavoidably, the Supreme BASECO v. PCGG a. Sequestration

                                                                                                               
1  Section  3.  Who   may   issue.  –  A  writ  of  sequestration  or  a  freeze  or  hold  order  may  be  issued  by  

the  Commission  upon  the  authority  of    at  least  two  Commissioners,  based  on  the  affirmation  or   complaint  of  an  interested  party  or  motu   proprio  when  the  Commission  has  reasonable  grounds   to  believe  that  the  issuance  thereof  is  warranted.  

 

 
Court elaborated on the meaning and concept of ill-gotten wealth. In Bataan Shipyard & Engineering Co., Inc. v. Presidential Commission on Good Government, or BASECO, for the sake of brevity, the Court held that: xxx until it can be determined, through appropriate judicial proceedings, whether the property was in truth “illgotten,” i.e., acquired through or as a result of improper or illegal use of or the conversion of funds belonging to the Government or any of its branches, instrumentalities, enterprises, banks or financial institutions, or by taking undue advantage of official position, authority, relationship, connection or influence, resulting in unjust enrichment of the ostensible owner and grave damage and prejudice to the State. And this, too, is the sense in which the term is commonly understood in other jurisdictions. By the clear terms of the law, the power of the PCGG to sequester property claimed to be "ill-gotten" means to place or cause to be placed under its possession or control said property, or any building or office wherein any such property and any records pertaining thereto may be found, including "business enterprises and entities,"-for the purpose of preventing the destruction, concealment or dissipation of, and otherwise conserving and preserving, the same-until it can be determined, through appropriate judicial proceedings, whether the property was in truth ill-gotten," i.e., acquired through or as a result of improper or illegal use of or the conversion of funds belonging to the Government or any of its branches, instrumentalities, enterprises, banks or financial institutions, or by taking undue advantage of official position, authority relationship, connection or influence, resulting in unjust enrichment of the ostensible owner and grave damage and prejudice to the State.44 And this, too, is the sense in which the term is commonly understood in other jurisdictions.45 Footnote 44: Except for the statement as to the duration of the writ of sequestration, this is substantially the definition of sequestration set out in Section 1(B) of the Rules and Regulations of the PCGG (Rollo, pp. 195-196). xxx

  While  one  might  argue  that  the  portion  that  the  Court  had  excerpted  indicated   how  property  may  become  ill-­‐gotten,  the  full  quote  reveals  that  such  was  made  in   reference  to  sequestration.  In  fact,  if  the  Court  had  not  omitted  footnote  44,  it   would  have  seen  clearly  that  (i)  its  excerpt  was,  in  fact,  a  discussion/definition  of   writ  of  sequestration  that  was  substantially  similar  to  that  defined  under  Section   1(B)  of  the  PCGG  Rules  and  (ii)  the  Court  would  have  been  one  mere  subsection   closer  to  the  definition  of  ill-­‐gotten  wealth,  Section  1(A)  of  the  same  PCGG  Rules.     Bearing  in  mind  that  the  case  was  premised  on  the  recovery  of  ill-­‐gotten   wealth—and  that  an  erroneous  ruling  would,  to  use  the  Court’s  definition  of   “higher  interests  of  justice,”  “potentially  cause  unwarranted  and  irremediable   injury  or  damage”  to  a  fifth  of  the  country’s  population—it  would  have  been   reasonable  to  expect  and  for  the  Filipino  people  to  demand  that  extra  care  would   have  been  taken  before  making  such  an  assertion.  Such  diligence  would  have   revealed  other  sources  of  the  definition  of  ill-­‐gotten  wealth:  Section  1(d)  of   Republic  Act  No.  7080  (“Plunder  Law,”  as  amended  by  R.A.  7659)  which   contains  a  substantially  similar  definition  of  ill-­‐gotten  wealth  as  Section  1(A)  of    

  the  PCGG  Rules  or  Republic  of  the  Philippines  v.  Estate  of  Hans  Menzi  which   adopted  Section  1(A)  of  the  PCGG  Rules  as  its  crucial  basis  for  deciding  against   Mr.  Eduardo  M.  Cojuangco,  Jr.     The  fallacy  in  the  Court’s  decision  is  borne  out  by  its  supervening  ruling  in  24   January  2012,  Philippine  Coconut  Producers  Federation,  Inc.,  et  al.  v.  Republic   of  the  Philippines,  where  the  Court,  voting  unanimously,  upheld  and  reverted  to   the  definition  of  ill-­‐gotten  wealth—which  it  claimed,  10  months  earlier,  to  be   nonexistent.     The  following  excerpts  from  the  case  of  Imelda  S.  Enriquez  v.  Judge  Anacleto  L.   Caminade  are  worth  recalling:    
Judges are expected to exhibit more than just cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural laws. In all good faith, they must know the laws and apply them properly. Judicial competence requires no less. Where the legal principle involved is sufficiently basic and elementary, lack of conversance with it constitutes gross ignorance of the law. xxx Judges are not common individuals whose gross errors “men forgive and time forgets.” For when they display an utter lack of familiarity with the rules, they erode the confidence of the public in the competence of our courts. Such lack is gross ignorance of the law. Verily, failure to follow basic legal commands and rules constitutes gross ignorance of the law, of which no one is excused, and surely not a judge.

We  write  mindful  of  the  compelling  interests  of  the  Rule  of  Law  vis-­‐à-­‐vis  stare   decisis,  judicial  independence,  judicial  integrity,  and  Constitutional  prescriptions   on  accountability  of  public  officers.  We  pray  of  this  Honorable  Supreme  Court  to   safeguard  its  judicial  integrity,  as  observed  by  Justice  Arturo  Brion  in  his   Separate  Concurring  Opinion  in  A.M.  No.  10-­‐7-­‐17-­‐SC:  In  the  Matter  of  the   Charges  of  Plagiarism,  etc.  against  Associate  Justice  Mariano  C.  Del  Castillo:    
xxx it is unthinkable that the Supreme Court can only watch helplessly—for the reason that the power to act is granted only to Congress under the terms of the Constitution—as its own Members prostitute its integrity as an institution.

  We  are  aware  of  Rule  13  of  the  Internal  Rules  of  the  Supreme  Court  that   elaborates  on  the  Decision-­‐Making  Process  of  the  Court—particularly,  Rule  13,   Section  3(c)  (re:  Actions  and  decisions,  how  reached)2  and  Rule  13,  Section  5  (re:                                                                                                                  
2  Rule  

13,   Section   3(C)   Decision   or   Resolution   –   When   a   case   is   submitted   for   decision   or   resolution,   the   Member-­‐in-­‐Charge   shall   have   the   same   placed   in   the   agenda   of   the   Court   for   deliberation.  He  or  she  shall  submit  to  the  other  Members  of  the  Court,  at  least  seven  days  in   advance,  a  report  that  shall  contain  the  facts,  the  issue  or  issues  involved,  the  arguments  of  the   contending   parties,   and   the   laws   and   jurisprudence   that   can   aid   the   Court   in   deciding   or   resolving   the   case.  In  consultation,  the  Members  of  the  Court  shall  agree  on  the  conclusion  or  

 

  Ponente  or  Opinion  writer)3—but  we  concede  that  we  are  unaware  of  the  full   circumstances  that  led  to  such  a  patently  erroneous  pronouncement.       Within  these  premises,  we  request  that  the  Ethics  Committee  investigate  this   matter—considering  that  this  error  has  given  rise  to  the  anomalous  decision  in   the  case  of  Republic  v.  Cojuangco—particularly,  as  regards  the  Ponente  and  the   Member-­‐in-­‐Charge.  This  request  is  without  prejudice  to  the  possibility  that,  as   Justice  Brion  wrote:    
xxx If, in the exercise of its prerogative as interpreter of the Constitution, it determines that an act complained of falls within the defined grounds for impeachment, then the Court should say so and forthwith forward its recommendations to Congress as the body constitutionally mandated to act in impeachment cases.

  We  trust  that  the  Court  will  find  in  its  investigation,  the  answers  that  our  3.5   million  country’s  coconut  farmers  seek,  the  mainspring  of  injustice—be  it  graft   and  corruption,  gross  ignorance  of  the  law,  knowingly  rendering  an  unjust   decision,  betrayal  of  public  trust,  or  culpable  violation  of  the  Constitution—and   in  such  answer,  whether  or  not  the  Court  can,  being  a  court  of  equity,  grant  them   the  relief  demanded  by  genuine  social  justice.       CATHOLIC  BISHOPS  CONFERENCE  OF  THE  PHILIPPINES-­‐   NATIONAL  SECRETARIAT  FOR  SOCIAL  ACTION  (CBCP-­‐NASSA)  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
conclusions  in  the  case,  unless  the  said  Member  requests  a  continuance  and  the  Court  grants  it.   [Emphasis  added.]   3  Section  5.  Ponente  or  Opinion  writer.  –  Immediately  upon  arriving  at  a  conclusion  regarding  the   issue   or   issues   in   the   case,   the   Court   shall   assign   a   Member   to   write   the   opinion   of   the   Court.   Should   the   majority   vote   on   such   conclusion   be   different   from   or   contrary   to   the   conclusion   arrived  at  by  the  ponente,  the  writing  of  the  new  opinion  shall  be  assigned  to  a  ponente  chosen  by   the  majority.  [Citation  omitted.]