Supreme Court of the Philippines

SC grants clemency, restores benefits to justice with Napoles ties

Lian Buan

NAPOLES TIES. Dismissed Sandiganbayan justice Gregory Ong (left) photographed with plunder defendant Senator Jinggoy Estrada and plunder convict Janet Lim Napoles.

Sourced photo

In partially granting the judicial clemency, the Supreme Court says 'humanity calls us to show benevolence and compassion to those deserving'

The Supreme Court granted partial judicial clemency to dismissed Sandiganbayan justice Gregory Ong who was fired over his ties to Janet Lim Napoles, restoring his retirement benefits, pension, and one-third of his lump sum benefits, citing “compassion to those deserving.”

The Supreme Court en banc unanimously granted the partial judicial clemency, with former chief justice Diosdado Peralta taking no part and Associate Justice Ricardo Rosario on leave. The ruling, penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, was promulgated way back January but released only on Tuesday, July 6.

“We do not disregard the gravity and consequences of his past misconduct,” said the Supreme Court but added, “humanity calls us to show benevolence and compassion to those deserving.”

As penalty, Ong forfeited two-thirds of his lump sum benefit.

Aside from the restored benefits and pension, “his disqualification from reemployment in any branch, agency, or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations is lifted.”

Ong was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2014 for being found administratively guilty of gross misconduct, dishonesty, and impropriety. This was because of Ong’s ties with the so-called pork barrel scam queen Napoles.

In the Sandiganbayan, Ong was part of the division that cleared Napoles in a case of ghost purchase of 500 Kevlar helmets in 1998 for the Philippine marines. That was in 2010.

In 2013, as Napoles figured in the pork barrel scam scandal, a photo surfaced showing Ong with Napoles and plunder defendant, former senator Jinggoy Estrada. Benhur Luy had also testified that Napoles used to brag that Ong was her Sandiganbayan “contact,” and that Ong had visited their office.

Ong denied all the accusations. But for “corrupt inclinations that tarnished the judiciary’s image,” the Supreme Court fired Ong in 2014.

Remorse and reformation

Ong applied for judicial clemency, submitting testimonies of former Supreme Court justice Jose Perez, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president Vicente Joyas, and his spiritual leader, Fr Alexander Balatbat, all vouching for the former justice’s “remorse and reformation.”

Ong also pleaded his case by proving his continued participation in “socio-civic activities” including providing free legal service to the needy.

“This Court also notes Ong’s current plight. The medical abstract he submitted states that his prostate cancer has recurred, which now requires him to undergo an operation and possible chemotherapy,” said the Supreme Court.

Ong said he had been having “a difficult medical and financial state,” since his dismissal.

“If he will be allowed to again work for the government, he can use his remaining productive years to redeem himself and to be of service to the public,” said the Supreme Court.

“Ong’s demonstration of remorse and reformation, along with his dire state, compels us to mitigate his penalty,” said the Supreme Court.

“A better and more humane society, and the implementation of its laws and rules, is the teleology of clemency. It should enable what is good in society rather than undermine the implementation of its ethical values enshrined in its laws and rules,” said the Court.

“With the second chance given him, this Court will expect much from Ong. We hope that he will not disappoint,” said the Court.

Also in January, the Supreme Court restored full benefits to the late ousted chief justice Renato Corona, which would be given to his widow. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.