New judge to handle San Miguel Holdings' case vs Indonesian partners

MANILA, Philippines– The Court of Appeals (CA) has greenlit the trial of the qualified theft case filed by San Miguel Holdings Corporation (SMHC) against its Indonesian partners under a new judge.

The CA ordered Regional Trial Court Marikina City Branch 193 presiding judge Alice Gutierrez to recuse herself after showing bias and partiality in dismissing the complaint last year.

“Judge Gutierrez may not be legally prohibited from sitting in the case a quo. But there are suggestions which are made of record that she is predisposed to act in favor of private respondents, or with bias or prejudice against petitioners,” the CA said.

Moreover, the CA said that Gutierrez has “displayed more than a hint of bias and partiality in the proceedings before the court a quo.”

The CA also cited an incident during pre-trial conference held last July 2016 where she manifested a “degree of aversion or hostility” towards SMHC.

SMHC wanted Indonesian businessman Shadik Wahono and other officers jailed for allegedly defrauding the conglomerate of P50 million, as well as misrepresentation. 

Wahono was the president of Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corporation (CMMTC), which was then jointly owned by SMHC and Wahono.

Wahono is the conglomerate's partner for the Skyway Stage 3 project.

The businessman and other officials allegedly conspired to incorporate another company called Citra Central Expressway Corporation using the unauthorized disbursements.

Gutierrez junked the firm’s plea as well as another case that involved Wahono and two other officials.

"The Court cannot turn a blind eye to the timing of the issuance of these questioned orders which petitioners now submit to have been tainted with manifest bias," the CA said. –