Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Presumption of innocence favors judge, says Villaroya

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Susan Palmes and Ben Balce / Sep 18) - A prominent Cagayan de Oro lawyer who caught the ire of judges when he publicly expressed his concern over allegations of corruption in the city’s courts several months ago said the accuser of regional Judge Gregorio Pantanosas would need to work harder to substantiate his claim that the magistrate asked a P1-million bribe.

‘‘The presumption of innocence favors the judge more so as the complainant is a publicity seeker,’’ said lawyer Roderico Villaroya.

Pantanosas’ accuser, Elly Pamatong, has been described by some lawyers here as ‘‘sharp’’ but ‘‘weird.’’

Pamatong is the same lawyer who was barred by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from running for President in 2004 because he was a ‘‘nuisance candidate.’’ That same year, he was linked to a group that scattered metal spikes on the streets and roads of Manila.

Pamatong is also known to be advocating to make the Philippines one of the states of the US.
Villaroya said he witnessed when Pantanosas ordered Pamatong to remove his fez inside the courtroom. He said he did not find the incident ‘‘alarming.’’

‘‘What transpired after is beyond my knowledge,’’ said Villaroya.
He added: ‘‘If a judge accepts a bribe, the lawyer is the bigger thief. Lawyers should not offer bribes as normally judges do not demand unless tempted."

Former vice mayor Antonio Soriano, a lawyer by profession, said he doubted if Pantanosas did what Pamatong claimed the judge did.

"I don’t think judge Pantanosas would do that," Soriano said.
"I know Judge Pantanosas personally, he is a good judge," Soriano said.

As for Pamatong, Soriano said, "I really don’t know him. It’s hard to describe him. I don’t even know if Pamatong is really a Muslim or a Christian."

But at the end of the day, Soriano said the question of who is really telling the truth would be decided by the Supreme Court.

The case against Pantanosas has become the talk of the town insofar as the city’s legal community is concerned. But most lawyers have opted not to speak on the record.

Even at the Hall of Justice, court employees opted to keep mum.

The Mindanao Gold Star Daily

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