Sandigan Justice Martires to JBC: Agree with GMA acquittal

Jee Y. Geronimo

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Sandigan Justice Martires to JBC: Agree with GMA acquittal
Arroyo appointee Sandiganbayan Justice Samuel Martires says he would have concurred with the SC decision acquitting Arroyo because there is 'no proof that the [former] President amassed wealth'

MANILA, Philippines – During the first day of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) public interviews for the slot of Supreme Court (SC) associate justices, candidates were tested on their “mastery of laws, rules, and jurisprudence.”

In particular, it was JBC Regular Member Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez who asked questions on how candidates would vote on landmark Supreme Court cases. 

On Wednesday, November 16, she asked Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Samuel Martires how he would decide on the SC case that acquitted former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The High Court in July granted Arroyo’s “demurrer to evidence”, a plea to dismiss a case on the basis of weak evidence.

“If you were member of that court, would you have concurred or dissented?” Gutierrez asked Martires, who replied, “I will concur. There is no proof that the President amassed wealth.” 

He further explained: “In amassing of wealth, it must be a series of combination of acts. That is the definition with the plunder case, the amount…is not the determining factor in amassing of wealth. It must be done through a series or combination of acts. If only one act done, even if the amount involved is P1 billion, there is no plunder.”

But Gutierrez asked if Martires has read the decision of the High Court. He replied he has not read it in its entirety. 

“Therefore you cannot analyze the evidence before us now,” Gutierrez said. “You read it first before you conclude you are concurring.”

Martires, who was a former RTC judge from Agoo, La Union, was appointed to the anti-graft court in 2005 by Arroyo. (READ: JBC asks Sandiganbayan justice: Would you grant Enrile’s bail?)

Garcia plea bargain

In the Sandiganbayan, Martires penned the resolution approving the Garcia plea bargain deal that allowed the former military comptroller to petition for the lesser charge of direct bribery and money laundering, instead of plunder. In exchange, Garcia would have to surrender P135.43 million of his assets. 

This deal triggered the impeachment move against Omdbusman Merceditas Gutierrez, who eventually resigned before her impeachment trial even began. 

The JBC will be interviewing applicants eyeing the two slots in the SC on Wednesday and Thursday, November 16 and 17.

The posts in contention will be vacated by Associate Justice Jose Perez and Associate Justice Arturo Brion, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 on December 14 and 29, respectively.

A shortlist of candidates will be submitted by the JBC to President Rodrigo Duterte, who will appoint the new SC magistrates. Under his term, Duterte will get to appoint 10 SC magistrates to replace retiring justices in the next 3 years. – 

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.