Kapunan to SC: Talk to lawyers, weed out corruption

Lorna Kapunan tells SC her statements were based on 'general knowledge within legal circles'

NO DISRESPECT. Lorna Kapunan says she had no intention of disrespecting the country's highest court. File photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – There was no intention to disrespect the country’s High Court, but now that the issue of judiciary corruption is again out in the open, controversial lawyer Lorna Kapunan has a few suggestions for the Supreme Court (SC). 

The SC can hold dialogues with bar associations to create a system for the Court’s “clean-up campaign,” and a way to provide whistleblowers administrative amnesty, said Kapunan, former lawyer of alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles. 

Early this month, Kapunan was asked by the Supreme Court to explain an allegation she made in a TV interview that there were justices who could be bribed.

In her reply to the SC, Kapunan said she purposefully “refrained from using insolent, contemptuous, grossly disrecpectful, derogatory and vituperative languages” against the High Court and individual judges in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Anthony Taberna. 

The SC received Kapunan’s reply on Friday, December 13. 

REPLIED. Lawyer Lorna Kapunan submits her reply after the Supreme Court asked her to explain her comments on judiciary corruption. Photo by Rappler

Context needed

In the segment, which aired over ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda, Kapunan was asked by Taberna: “May kilala po ba kayong justice ng Supreme Court na nababayaran?” (Do you know of any Supreme Court justice who accepts bribes?)

Opo (yes),” was Kapunan’s answer. The feisty lawyer added corruption was prevalent in the Court of Appeals as well, where she said a restraining order can cost P5 million. 

The full interview, which aired on the show Tapatan ni Tunying, reveals the full context of her answers, said Kapunan in her reply, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler. 

Kapunan did not name the justices who allegedly accept bribes. “Sitting justice? Mas lalong hindi ko sasabihin kung sitting justice, ano. That means may kaso kami doon,” she said. (I won’t tell you if it’s a sitting justice who’s corrupt. That means we still have a case there.) 

“Some justices both in the CA and the SC have been known to receive. Known to receive because sometimes, hindi mo naman alam kung totoo yun o hindi eh. Kasi that’s the problem with bribery, wala namang resibo ang bribe. At wala namang mag-aamin na nagbigay at walang mag-aamin na tumanggap,” Kapunan added. (That’s the problem with bribery. There’s no receipt. Those who give and those who receive won’t admit it.) 

In the interview, Kapunan explained why it’s hard to clean up the judiciary. “Walang gustong mag-testify, whether kliente or lawyer because babalikan ka e,” she said. (Nobody wants to testify, client or lawyer because the justice will get back at you.) 

Kapunan’s comments after the Tribunal created a committee to probe allegations that a certain “Ma’am Arlene” and other big-time fixers have influence over justices and judges. 

The Philippine judiciary has been perceived as corrupt. In May 2012, the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, found then Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty of betraying the public trust for not declaring millions deposited in his bank accounts. The verdict – the first of its kind in the Philippines – removed Corona from his post.

Cleaning up the courts

“The clean-up has started from the time of former CJ [Reynato] Puno. At na-identify niya lahat ng mga kailangan tanggalin,” Kapunan told Taberna. (Former Chief Justice Puno was able to identify those who needed ot be removed.)  “There was not enough time. Or yung mga notorious ay may kanya-kanya padrino,” she added. (The notorious figures had their own patrons.) 

In her reply to the SC, Kapunan explained that her statements were based on “general knowledge within legal circles.”

Kapunan told the Court that she had met with heads of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Philippine Bar Association, the IBP National Center for Legal Aid, and the University of the Philippines Women Lawyers Circle “to get a collective sense of how the legal profession can heed the challenge of the Chief Justice in helping reform the bench and the Bar.” 

Kapunan was referring to a speech Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno made in September this year, calling on lawyers to help the High Court pinpoint cases of corruption in the judiciary. – Rappler.com