Friday, January 20, 2012

Former Justice Cuevas should inhibit himself from Corona Impeachment Trial

Former Justice Serafin Cuevas is still one of the most respected legal minds in our country. Even at the age of eighty three years old, Cuevas' mind is a rich repository of legal history and experience in litigation. Watch the Impeachment trial, and you'll find Cuevas making mince meat of the younger legal experts in the prosecution panel. 


I am in the opinion that Cuevas should continue his service as lead counsel in the defense of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Republic Act 910 states that:



AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE RETIREMENT OF JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT AND OF THE COURT OF APPEALS, FOR THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE PROVISIONS HEREOF BY THE GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM, AND TO REPEAL COMMONWEALTH ACT NUMBERED FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SIXSection 1. When a Justice of the Supreme Court or of the Court of Appeals who has rendered at least twenty years' service either in the judiciary or in any other branch of the Government, or in both, (a) retires for having attained the age of seventy years, or (b) resigns by reason of his incapacity to discharge the duties of his office, he shall receive during the residue of his natural life, in the manner hereinafter provided, the salary which he was receiving at the time of his retirement or resignation. And when a Justice of the Supreme Court or of the Court of Appeals has attained the age of fifty-seven years and has rendered at least twenty-years' service in the Government, ten or more of which have been continuously rendered as such Justice or as judge of a court of record, he shall be likewise entitled to retire and receive during the residue of his natural life, in the manner also hereinafter prescribed, the salary which he was then receiving. It is a condition of the pension provided for herein that no retiring Justice during the time that he is receiving said pension shall appear as counsel before any court in any civil case wherein the Government or any subdivision or instrumentality thereof is the adverse party, or in any criminal case wherein and officer or employee of the Government is accused of an offense committed in relation to his office, or collect any fee for his appearance in any administrative proceedings to maintain an interest adverse to the Government, insular, provincial or municipal, or to any of its legally constituted officers.

IN this Republic Act, the law says that a pension of a retiring justice cannot appear as counsel before any court in :

a. any civil case wherein the Government or any subdivision or instrumentality thereof is the adverse party or in;b. any criminal case wherein an officer or employee of the Government is accused of an offense committed in relation to his office orc. collect any fee for his appearance in any administrative proceedings to maintain an interest adverse to the Government...

Now, Justice Cuevas is a retiree from the Supreme Court and is still receiving pension from government. He now serves as lead counsel in the defense of the Chief Justice in an impeachment case. 

An impeachment case is a totally different animal altogether. It is not a civil case nor a criminal one. It is a case created by the Constitution so that those with constitutionally mandated terms who violated the provisions of the Charter be made liable for their crimes and allowed an exit. 

If you'll be technical about it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Cuevas serving as lead counsel for the defense. 

However, how will we interpret this phrase or sentence in RA 910? It says 

"...or collect any fee for his appearance in any administrative proceedings to maintain an interest adverse to the GOvernment....or any of its legally constituted officers."

Meaning, we should allow Cuevas to continue representing the Chief Justice as legal counsel PROVIDED that Cuevas does not receive any fee in his representation thereof. This provision covers him technically since impeachments are administrative proceedings which government is interested and the one being impeached has interests which are adverse to government.

If, it is proven, that Justice Cuevas is receiving fees from his appearance, he risks his pension.