I have had opportunity to reassess the credibility of Justice Jose Sabio in the light of certain facts extracted by the investigating committee looking into the Meralco-GSIS case, and it isn’t a pretty picture. In fact, it’s downright ugly. Justice Sabio, for all his pious posturing turns out to have been a player too.
Facing the three-man investigative panel composed of former Supreme Court Justices Romeo Callejo, Flerida Romero and Carolina Grino- Aquino, Justice Sabio admitted that his older brother, Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioner Camilo Sabio, had asked him not to issue a temporary restraining order against the Government Service Insurance System that was in a dispute with the Manila Electric Company. It was a bald request to take the GSIS side in the case. Justice Sabio did not reveal this fact until it was elicited from him in the process of cross-examination.
I have pointed out his seeming easy approachability. This was borne out by the circumstances relating to the call from his brother, which was made on May 30. Despite this, he still met with an emissary of Meralco, in the person of Francis De Borja, on July 1. This gives rise to the reasonable suspicion that he may have been playing both sides, feeling out the highest bidder, before he commits himself to either the GSIS or Meralco. This bolsters De Borja’s claim that, at the very least, Sabio was making himself available for negotiation. This clashes with the image I had of the younger Sabio as an upright professor of legal ethics. As pointedly observed by the Inquirer:
It’s either that the Ateneo de Manila Law School’s professor of legal ethics had no comprehension of the subject he teaches or he is a plain and simple hypocrite.
Justice Sabio came forward to virtuously blow the whistle. But now the question is: Why so selectively? And while he denied allegations of Palace blandishments to do the GSIS’ bidding, he conveniently left out his brother’s intervention. He is looking more and more like a man who got a juicy Palace offer but tried to cash in quickly by basically making it obvious to the other side he would be open to a counteroffer.
Touché. It seems the good magistrate has not only painted himself into a corner, but has scuttled the already sinking reputation of the Court of Appeals in the process. Which is actually a good thing, as it has brought to light the dirty underbelly of our judicial system. Although I seriously doubt if this sordid mess will lead to serious reforms. After it all blows over, it will be business as usual in the judicial marketplace.
Disbarment case filed against PCGG Chair Camilo Sabio.