>News Update Supreme Court dares Vizconde anew to prove lobbying, bribery

>MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) again dared Lauro Vizconde yesterday to present proof of his allegation that Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had lobbied with his fellow justices for the acquittal of Hubert Webb and six others previously convicted for the massacre of his family in 1991.

Court Administrator and SC spokesman Midas Marquez said the High Court is not inclined at this point to investigate a new insinuation by the widower that it was Chief Justice Renato Corona who bared Carpio’s alleged moves and that P50 million in “lobby funds” were offered to the magistrates for Webb’s acquittal.

“If they have evidence or any witness, bring it out now,” he said at a press conference.

Marquez said all justices named by Vizconde as being privy to the purported lobby funds – SC Justices Jose Mendoza and Lucas Bersamin and Court of Appeals Justice Japar Dimaampao – denied the allegation they met with the widower and talked about his case in 2006.

“These are all inaccurate statements. Let’s put a stop to all these,” he stressed, saying the SC would only comment again when “something substantial is raised.”

“We understand where Mr. Vizconde is coming from – he had lost his family. That was one consideration why he was only admonished by the Court (for his earlier unsubstantiated allegation). We can’t investigate unless there’s something concrete or substantial,” stressed Marquez, whose office is in charge of investigating complaints against justices and members of the judiciary.

Corona denied earlier allegations he had warned Vizconde of Carpio’s alleged lobbying during a meeting in September last year. Marquez clarified that Vizconde and Jimenez met Corona to greet him for his appointment as chief justice during their meeting in July last year. It was not Corona who greeted the two for being members of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, as previously reported.

Hunger for reforms

Vizconde and his supporters started a three-day hunger strike in front of the SC building along Padre Faura street to call for “reforms in the judiciary.” He talked to Marquez, who asked for a copy of his Jan. 27 affidavit containing his allegations against the justices. The affidavit will be submitted for consideration of the SC in a full-court session on March 1.

“I understand what you’re going through. But remember that when you make those accusations, it’s affecting the integrity of the court as an institution,” Marquez told Vizconde in their brief conversation.

Vizconde replied: “I’m sorry. I didn’t really intend to name Corona, but I have to tell the truth.”

Webb’s lawyer, Demetrio Custodio Jr., denied bribing justices to get an acquittal and called on the High Court to impose necessary sanctions on Vizconde for his allegations against the justices.

“This is serious attack on the court and should be dealt with accordingly. Otherwise it would allow future losing litigants to cast aspersions on the high court. Our firm worked so hard to secure an acquittal and did everything within the bounds of law. We know of no such bribery,” he said in a statement to The STAR.

Their supporters, the Justice for Hubert Webb Movement, agreed that Vizconde should be made accountable for not accepting the decision of the court acquitting Webb.

In a related development, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday new charges could be filed in the Vizconde massacre case after the National Bureau of Investigation achieved a “breakthrough” in the case.

“We will include (filing of new charges) in our report to President Aquino. That will be among those we will do once all necessary steps are completed,” she said, but refused to elaborate in order not to preempt the ongoing investigation. – By Edu Punay

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