Napoles-linked Sandigan justice tried to influence SC – Leonen

MANILA  - Former Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong tried to influence the magistrates of the Supreme Court (SC) when he offered to resign prior to the high court’s decision dismissing him over his links to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen disclosed this in his 38-page concurring opinion, saying Ong wrote a letter availing of early retirement while his case was still being deliberated by the SC.

“Many times during the deliberations of this case, colleagues have pointed to the need for compassion for the case of Justice Ong.·We are told that he has served long years as a judge and as a justice,” Leonen said.

“We were even told that he attempted to informally circulate a letter through other colleagues in this court that he was willing to take optional retirement should he be meted with any kind of suspension,” he added.

Leonen said Ong’s attempted written communication to the SC magistrates during the deliberation of his case was wrong and considered as influence peddling.

“That he had the audacity to try to influence the members of this court by offering to resign through an informal letter circulated through some colleagues is in my view could have been another basis for his dismissal. It shows that he has at least made attempts to communicate ex parte with members of this court outside the formal processes allowed by our rules,” Leonen said.

Leonen said the SC should “properly call out an attempt to illicitly influence” its justices when deliberating cases.

Last week, the high court ordered Ong’s dismissal after finding him guilty of gross misconduct, dishonesty and impropriety with her links to Napoles, the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind.

Ong’s case stemmed from the dismissal of the case for malversation through falsification of public documents against Napoles in connection with her anomalous sale in 1998 of 500 Kevlar helmets to the Philippine Marines.

The SC cited findings that Ong met with Napoles twice at her office after the then member of the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division acquitted her in the case.

Ong was then a member of the said anti-graft court division.