Ex-BI execs lose bids for 3 judges’ inhibition

MANILA -- The Sandiganbayan has junked the motions for inhibition, which were filed by two former executives of the Bureau of Immigration against the three justices handling their cases on the alleged PHP50-million bribery in exchange for the release of Chinese aliens illegally working in a casino in Angeles City in 2016.

The Sandiganbayan 6th Division, in its resolution dated Jan. 28, 2019, denied for lack of merit former Deputy Commissioners Michael B. Robles and Al C. Argosino's motion to inhibit and the urgent motion for inhibition, respectively.

The former BI officials wanted the court to order the voluntary inhibition of Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez, Karl B. Miranda and Zaldy V. Trespeses on the grounds of partiality, bias and unfairness.

“The Supreme Court has held that a classmate's appearance before a Judge as counsel for one of the parties per se is not a ground for voluntary inhibition. There should be clear and convincing proof of bias and prejudice,” the anti-graft court ruled.

“This Court finds that accused Robles and Argosino not only failed to prove bias and partiality on the part of Justices Fernandez, Miranda and Trespeses. They also failed to state specific acts indicative of bias and partiality on the part of this Court's Justices,” it added.

In his motion, Robles asked for the inhibition of Fernandez, arguing that they were illegally deprived of their liberty.

“The Court's subsequent resolutions further show that as long as Justice Fernandez takes part in the proceedings, it is unlikely that the accused will get justice and a fair trial,” he said in his motion.

In his urgent motion, Argosino manifested that he is adopting the motion to inhibit filed by Robles, asking that the justices inhibit themselves from hearing their cases until they would re-raffled to another Sandiganbayan Division.

“The grounds for inhibition cited by accused Robles also extend to Justices Miranda and Trespeses,” he added.

In its consolidated opposition, the prosecution argued that Robles' claim of illegal deprivation of liberty has no basis because the accused voluntarily surrendered.

“Early in the proceedings, and at the first instance, Justice Fernandez disclosed that she and Atty. Laurence Hector B. Arroyo were classmates in law school. The prosecution did not find the matter objectionable. At the time, none of the parties moved for her inhibition,” the prosecutors added. (PNA)

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