Tuesday, September 23, 2014

First Dismissed Sandiganbayan Justice

  1. Ong is the first Sandiganbayan justice dismissed by the high court. Prior to Ong, the anti-graft court indefinitely suspended Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Francis Garchitorena in 2001.
  2. Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory S. Ong was dismissed on 23 September 2014 by the Supreme Court (SC) for “gross misconduct, dishonesty and impropriety” over his links to the alleged pork-barrel scam architect Janet Lim-Napoles.
  3. This was the second offense committed by Ong. In 2011, the SC ruled with finality that Ong had committed conduct unbecoming of justices when he and two other Sandiganbayan justices mishandlled the trial of cases in Davao City in April 2006. Assistant Prosecutor Rohermia Jamsani-Rodriguez had alleged that the anti-graft court's Fourth Division simultaneously heard two cases together, with Ong hearing one case by himself, while the two other magistrates heard the other. The Sandiganbayan's Fourth Division compromised their ability to function as a collegial body when its three members heard two cases simultaneously, the Supreme Court said in its ruling.
  4. Ong's dismissal came with the "forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave benefits, if any, and with prejudice to reemployment in any branch, agency or instrumentality of the government including government-owned and controlled corporation." The SC said its decision was "immediately executory."
  5. Ong was born on 25 May 1953 in San Juan City, Manila. He finished elementary and high school education at the Philippine Chinese Chen Kuang (1966) and at the Jose Rizal College (with honors, 1970), respectively. He earned his AB Political Science degree at Far Eastern University (1975), and his Bachelor of Laws at San Beda College of Law (1979), where he became Grand Judex of Lex Talionis Fraternitas. He passed the 1979 Philippine Bar Examination with a bar rating of 76.45%. He studied Master of Laws at the Manuel L. Quezon University (1992).
  6. Ong was the most senior associate justice of the Sandiganbayan or the longest-sitting justice of the anti-graft court. Ong was appointed associate justice and the chair of the fourth division of the Sandiganbayan by former president and Manila City mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada on 5 October 1998, making him the longest sitting justice. He was scheduled to retire 25 May 2023 when he reaches 70.
  7. He was promoted as SC justice on 16 May 2007 during the Arroyo administration but it was withdrawn after his citizenship was questioned. Since the creation of the Philippine Supreme Court in 1901, no presidential appointment of a Supreme Court Associate had ever been nullified by the High Tribunal. But on 3 July 2007 the Adolfo Azcuna judgment made history. The Court granted the petition of two foundations that sought to block Ong’s appointment over the citizenship issue. Azcuna wrote that Ong would be unable to join them on the bench "until he had proven in court that he was a natural-born Filipino citizen and corrected the records of his birth and citizenship". The court declared its decision to be final and effective immediately.
  8. Ong was the seventh richest associate justice in the Sandiganbayan with a net worth of P16 million, according to his 2014 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).
  9. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno ordered an investigation against Ong after Benhur Luy and Marina Sula, whistleblowers in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, accused the anti-graft court justice as the contact of Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged mastermind in the fund anomaly.
  10. Ong, was the chairman of the Sandiganbayan's Fourth Division, who allegedly fixed the 2010 decision that acquitted Napoles and her husband, Jaime, over the anomalous sale of 500 Kevlar helmets to the Philippine Marines in 1998.
  11. Napoles, currently detained on illegal detention charges and is facing separate graft and plunder charges, is accused of using bogus non-government organizations to misuse lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the formal name of pork barrel. 
  12. Voting 8-5-2 or eight in favor of Ong’s dismissal, five against and two abstentions, the high court in a per curiam (by the court) decision said: The “totality of the circumstances of such association strongly indicates (Ong’s) corrupt inclinations that only heightened the public’s perception of anomaly in the decision making process.”
Those who voted for Ong’s dismissal were:
* Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno,
* Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio,
* Associate Justices Arturo Brion,
* Mariano Del Castillo,
* Martin Villarama Jr.,
* Estella Perlas-Bernabe,
* Marvic Leonen,
* and Francis Jardeleza.
Those who dissented were:
* Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin,
* Presbitero Velasco,
* Jose Perez,
* Jose Mendoza, and
* Bienvenido Reyes.
Out of the 15 SC magistrates, two justices have abstained from the case — Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Diosdado Peralta — former colleagues of Ong in the anti-graft court or the Sandiganbayan.

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