Controversial court rulings in the PH in 2023
Controversial court rulings in the PH in 2023
Controversial court rulings in the PH in 2023
by Daylight Abas30 December 2023

Over the past year, the Philippines has witnessed controversial issues that involve government officials and even the media, which led to different opinions from the Filipinos.

In this article, DZRH News Digital looked back at the court rulings that have become the main issues in the Philippines, which created heated debates among the readers and viewers of DZRH News.

Former Senator Leila De Lima gets acquitted from drug case

Almost six years have passed since former Senator Leila De Lima was convicted after being accused of benefiting financially from the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her years in the position of the Department of Justice (Secretary) in 2017.

Earlier this year, De Lima’s camp planned to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, a legal action where an arrested person is brought before a judge or court before being detained or imprisoned.

The former opposition senator’s camp filed an omnibus motion on February 23 that seeks the outright dismissal of her drug cases and eyes to grant her the right to post bail and immediate release after star witness, former corrections chief Rafael Ragos, recanted his previous drug accusations against her in November last year.

However, the DOJ filed a motion to reopen one of De Lima’s two drug cases, with the panel of prosecutors requesting the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 to reopen the case in which the former Justice Secretary and Ronnie Dayan committed illegal drug trading, which was done during her term in the position.

With such a request, the Muntinlupa court granted the petition in the interest of justice and gave the parties the fullest opportunity to provide evidence against the accused, in which De Lima was acquitted in one of her two remaining illegal drug charges on May 12.

According to De Lima’s legal counsel, the court stated that even though there was illegal drug trading inside the NBP, there was no positive evidence of the former senator’s involvement, adding that Ragos’ recantation helped nullify the previous evidence that was previously presented by the prosecution, thus making her acquitted beyond a reasonable doubt.

The decision was welcomed by lawmakers and government officials, as well as former President Rodrigo Duterte.

The detained former senator’s third drug case has been raffled and assigned to Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 after Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 Judge Romeo Buenaventura voluntarily inhibited himself from handling the case.

Buenaventura dropped the case as he is the brother of Emmanuel Buenaventura, who counseled De Lima’s co-accused, Ronnie Dayang, in executing his affidavit, which implicated the former Justice Secretary’s illegal drug trading.

On November 13, De Lima’s legal counsel, Atty. Filibon Tacardon announced that the Muntinlupa court granted bail for her last drug case after spending six years in jail with baseless and politically motivated charges filed against her.

Senator Ronald Dela Rosa then respected the court’s decision as he also observed the separation of powers, stating to respect the court’s decision.

In a report by RH 08 Christian Maño, the bail bond was set at P300,000.

On November 13, De Lima was released from the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial facility in Camp Crame after posting the prescribed bail bond, which allowed the accused provisional liberty.

Larry Gadon disbarred by Supreme Court

With his misogynistic, sexist, abusive, and repeated intemperate language used against a journalist, which went viral, the Supreme Court announced Atty. Larry Gadon’s disbarment received 15-0 votes from the high court.

According to the SC Public Information Office (PICO), Gadon was disbarred due to the viral video where he repeatedly cursed and uttered profane remarks against the Manila correspondent of the South China Morning Post, Raisa Robles, which was subjected to being “indisputably scandalous that it discredits the legal profession.”

Gadon then shrugged off the decision, saying that there is no requirement to have a lawyer with the position given to him by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the Presidential Adviser on Poverty Alleviation, adding that it no longer has a bearing since he already retired as a lawyer in 2015, and also saying that he will file a motion.

Despite the disbarment, Gadon continued to stay as the current administration’s anti-poverty czar, and according to the Presidential Communications Office, they are fully aware of the disbarment.

Moreover, Gadon questioned the SC for announcing his disbarment case, saying that it has no finality yet and he could still re-apply and resubmit an appeal, during his interview with DZRH’s Damdaming Bayan, in which he compared his case to the other members of the government.

He even saw the disbarment as an attempt to embarrass the President, saying that the high tribunal normally does not publicize a lawyer’s disbarment since a motion can still be filed for reconsideration or reapplication to practice law.

Gadon also questioned SC’s lack of action to disbar other lawyers for their actions, referring to former Senator Leila De Lima and Atty. Chel Diokno.

In August, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) refuted Gadon’s accusations against the SC with regard to his disbarment, as the latter’s claims against the high court were baseless, malicious, and untrue.

Rappler, CEO cleared from tax evasion

The Court of Tax Appeal (CTA) has cleared Rappler Holdings Corp. and its chief executive officer (CEO) Maria Ressa from four counts of tax evasion charges that were filed against them in 2018, saying that the prosecutors failed to prove that Ressa and Rappler evaded tax payments beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ressa said that the charges were politically motivated, a brazen abuse of power, and meant to prevent journalists from doing their jobs, adding that the cases were where the capital markets, rule of law, and press freedom meet.

In 2018, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) accused the media company of falsifying tax returns by omitting the proceeds of the sale of depositary receipts of two foreign entities, saying that the online news site violated a constitutional provision that stops foreign ownership and foreign investor shares in local media companies.

Ressa said that the acquittal was dedicated to every Filipino who was unjustly accused.

Makati vs. Taguig land dispute

The local government of Taguig City made a move to file a motion, requesting the Supreme Court to investigate false troubling claims that were made by Makati City Mayor Abby Binay with regard to Makati and Taguig’s year-long territorial dispute, which was led by Mayor Lani Cayetano.

Citing Bina’s social media posts that allegedly encouraged the Makati residents’ will to continue fighting for the disputed Bonifacio Global City Complex (BGC), the Taguig government wanted the Makati mayor to be investigated.

The Taguig LGU requested the higher court issue a show cause order against Binay to explain herself not to be sanctioned due to her claims, as Cayetano emphasized her opposition to the social media post.

Cayetano also said that Binay released a statement claiming that she received an order from the high tribunal for the case’s rehearing.

In July, the SC made its final and executory decision, affirming that the Fort Bonifacio Military Reservation, along with the disputed 10 barangays, belonged to Taguig, which Binay recognized and respected.

Binay made her speech through her Facebook page, saying that the two-decade case had come to an end and that a smooth transition of administration is expected to be done without disruption to public services.

She said that she respected the SC’s decision to relocate the 300,000 Makati residents to Taguig, saying that the case took them more than 30 years to fight the legal battle since his father, Jejomar Binay, who sat as the former mayor of Makati,.

The Taguig government acknowledged the Makati mayor’s respect for the court’s decision and assured that the LGU is ready to take on the responsibility of leading 10 barangays with the same fervent commitment and solicitude that they have done with its 28 barangays.

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