Pearl of the Pacific

Transcript of Justice Sabio’s Statement in Reaction To Francis de Borja’s Affidavit Re the Meralco case




Good morning. I thank you all for coming. As you know, yesterday, the CA en banc deliberated on and came to the agreement that we would refer the procedural and ethical aspect of the Meralco-SEC case to the Supreme Court to decide; and leave the validity of the decision for the parties to file the appropriate legal proceedings. We also all agreed that by referring this case to the SC, we would no longer discuss this case outside of the agreement.

Let me say that as per our agreement, I had every intention of not agreeing anymore to be interviewed on this matter. As some of you have found out yesterday after the deliberations, I had declined any attempts to be interviewed.

But then, at about 5 pm yesterday, I found out that Mr. Francis De Borja had executed an affidavit alleging, in substance, that it was I who had verbally insinuated to him that I could be bought for 50 million, and a position at the S.C.

Immediately thereafter, I called up PJ Vasquez and told him of this new development. It is therefore with his knowledge and consent that I called for this press conference, so I could set the record straight and respond to the allegations made by Mr. De Borja.

At the outset, I must state that I cannot even begin to express my anger, outrage and disgust that a person whom I had treated with civil respect and kindness; and whom I thought respected me would impute such a filthy lie on me. But that Mr. De Borja would have the nerve to make these lies, under oath, is utterly disgusting when it was him who had come to me with the offer of the bribe.

In the effort to make sure that I addressed all the allegations he made in his affidavit, I have prepared this statement, and I will narrate to you all my conversations with Mr. De Borja, including facts and names, almost word for word as I remember them. Please bear with me as I read this without allowing for interruptions, as I want to make sure I cover all the facts and do not miss out on any details. I will allow for questions, after I have read this statement.

Let me begin.

Paragraphs 1-2 of Mr. De Borja’s affidavit relates to matters which Mr. De Borja alone would know as these relate to how he purportedly came to know of the Meralco/SEC case. I therefore would not know whether he spoke the truth or not.

Paragraph 3, wherein he narrates what he does for a living is consistent with what I have known of him: as a businessman who facilitates and brokers land deals.

In paragraphs 4-12 of his affidavit— Mr. De Borja narrates the circumstances under which we came to know each other. For the most part, they are accurate. However, he has twisted the facts to insinuate that the circumstances under which I received money from him were highly irregular. It was not. Let me clarify.

1. I’ve had long years of service with the Roa family. The deceased Patriarch Congressman Oloy Roa had personally instructed me as his dying wish that I do not cease helping his children even if he was already gone. In fact, the eldest daughter of this deceased patriarch—Mrs Evelyn Roa Clavano—is the very person Francis De Borja tried to contact to convince me to accept his ten million bribe.

2. Mrs Evelyn Roa Clavano and other children have always come to me for help in family decisions. One of this was the sale of their huge tract of land.

3. Mr. De Borja brokered the deal. The whole matter was protracted. There were a lot of difficult issues and many times I had to settle dispute and smooth things over with family members who were fighting among each other but trusted me and listened to me.

4. Paragraph 8 therefore where he states that I “advised on legal issues” is MISLEADING AND INACCUURATE. I was advising the family in a personal capacity regarding what I thought to be most advantageous offer for their land. When I accepted the P300K it was not as a judge, but as a confidant and family adviser.

5. I did not ask for that money, nor was there any agreement between us that he would give the same. As a matter of fact, Mr. De Borja offered that money AFTER the conclusion of the deal, and without me having to ask or saying anything. When I agreed to advise there was absolutely no expectation of receiving.

6. I did not violate any law. You can check all the statute books on that.

7. As Mr. De Borja himself acknowledged, the money was given in appreciation of my efforts in concluding the deal between the Roa family and his principal. Mrs. Evelyn Roa Clavano knew about the money and I had her blessing when I received it.

8. Mr. De Borja is obviously bringing up this past incident to discredit me and insinuate from the facts that I had accepted a bribe from him in the past. I categorically denounce the insinuations he is
maliciously trying to impute against my honor and integrity.

9. Paragraph 12 and its subparagraphs are likewise misleading. I never initiated any communication with Mr. De Borja. It was he who would call either me, or our mutual friend, Mrs. Evelyn Clavano to meet up.

It is not true that we had lunch two or three times a year. If we did have lunch, it was on very rare occasions, not even three times a year. I had no business with him.

10. In recent times, I likewise never initiated calls to contact him. It was only on one occasion in this case when I wished to end his pestering—which I will shortly discuss—that I decided to call him up.

11. Even now, I challenge him to produce his phone records to prove that I ever contacted him. I can show you all my phone records to prove the fact that he always tried to contact me, not the reverse.

12. Moving on now on to his allegations of what he narrated as “What happened when Justice Sabio met with me on the MERALCO–SEC case.”

This is another inaccurate and misleading statement. It was not I who met with Mr. De Borja. It was he who sought me out to set an appointment with me.

13. I specifically and vehemently deny Paragraphs 13-21 as blatant lies. Rather than address these paragraph by paragraph, let me narrate exactly how Mr. De Borja initated contact and what exactly transpired in these 4 conversations: three by phone exchanges and one face-to-face after he had sought me out at the Ateneo.

– The first contact happened on or about May 31. Merely days after the Meralco-SEC case had been raffled, Mr. De Borja called me up, so suddenly, and after having had no contact for almost a year.
– Mr. De Borja said: Mabuhay ka, Justice.
– I asked: Why did you say ‘Mabuhay’?
– He said: I just want to let you know that the Makati Business Club is happy with what you did.
– I asked: Why, what have I done?
– And he answered: Di ba isa ka sa pumirma ng TRO?
– I told him: Yes, in fact, I am the Acting chairman of the Division.
– And he said: Mabuti hindi ka na pressure.
– And I told him: I voted according to my conscience.
– Then he said: Mabuhay ka Justice.
– That was the end of that conversation.

14. The second phone call from Mr. De Borja happened on July 1, sometime during the day.

– Mr. De Borja started the call this way. He said: Justice, pwede ba tayong magkita? Importante lang.
– I told him: But I have classes from 6-8 o’clock tonight.
– He said: Pupuntahan na lang kita pagkatapos ng klase mo.
– Then I said: Sige, pero hindi ako magtatagal. Kasama ko and aking asawa at anak.

15. On that same day, by the time I had finished my class at 8 p.m., Mr. De Borja was already waiting for me at the Lobby Lounge of the 3rd Floor of the Ateneo Law School. His first words to me were: Alam mo Justice kung sino ang kasama ko ngayon sa kotse? Si Manolo Lopez.
– Then he said: Noong tanungin kita at sinabi kong “Mabuhay ka Justice,” si Manolo Lopez and katabi ko noon. Papunta siyang America, kaya ako na lang ang pumunta dito para makiusap sa ‘yo. Alam mo, itong kaso na ito is a matter of life and death for the Lopezes. And alam mo naman what the Marcoses did to them, which is being done now by the Arroyos.
– At that point he mentioned the impasse between Justice Bienvenido Reyes and myself. He said: Alam naming may problema kayo ni Justice Reyes tungkol sa chairmanship.
– I was surprised how he came to know about it, as this was an internal matter of the Court of Appeals which only happened fairly recently and many associate justices of the CA were not even aware of this. Just the same, I explained my stand and why I could not relinquish the chairmanship to Justice Reyes.
– He then replied: Alam mo, Justice, ang opinion dito ni Nonong Cruz ay i-challenge ang stand mo. Kaya lang, mayroon namang nagsabi na it might become messy.
– Then he bragged to me: Ako din ang responsible sa pag-recommend at pag-hire ng Villaraza Law Firm.
– Then he explained that he was there to offer me a win-win situation.
– He said: Justice, mayroon kaming P10 million. Ready.

16. At that point, I was shocked that he had a very low regard for me. He was treating me like there was a price on my person. I could not describe my feelings. I was stunned. But at the same time, hindi ko rin magawang bastusin siya because I had known him since 1993 and this was the first time that he had ever treated me like this, or shown that he believed I could be bought.

– So I just told him: Francis, I cannot in conscience agree to that.
– His answer was: Sabi ko na nga sa kanila, mahirap ka talaga papayag. Kasi may anak iyang Opus Dei. Numerary pa.
– At this point, I just wanted to leave, so I told him I could not stay long. I told him my wife and lawyer daughter were waiting.
– Even then, he was already insistent. His parting words before I left were: Just think about it, Justice.

17. When I went down to the car park, I told my wife and daughter about what Mr. Francis De Borja tried to do to me. Both of them got angry and insulted on my behalf. They likewise expressed the
sentiment that, although we did not know him well, we thought he respected me as a person. I also told them that Mr. Francis De Borja bragged to Manolo Lopez of his perceived closeness to me at
pinapaniwala niya siguro si Manolo Lopez na kaya niya ako.

18. At this point, I thought I had made myself clear to Mr. De Borja that I was rejecting any offer. But Mr. De Borja would not quit. A day or two later, I found out that Mr. De Borja called up our mutual
friend in Cagayan de Oro, Mrs. Evelyn Roa Clavano. He actually urged Mrs. Clavano to ask me to give way to Justice Bienvenido Reyes because they cannot be sure of me.

19. I found out about Mr. De Borja’s call because a few days after that meeting, I had called Mrs. Clavano about some personal matters. It was during that call that I was again shocked to learn that Mr. De Borja had called her. She told me she was also shocked that Francis De Borja had the gall to ask her to convince me to accept the bribe.

As we speak, Mrs . Clavano is finalizing her affidavit on the phone conversation she had with Mr. De Borja and this statement will be faxed to me within the day.

20. Again, I was still of the opinion that since I had given a firm NO to his offer, I thought the matter had already been settled. Mr. De Borja, however, kept pestering me with phone calls and text messages.

On this point again, I challenge him to produce his phone records to disprove what I am saying.

21. By this time, I had begun to feel oppressed by his pestering. I called him up to tell him once and for all to stop pestering me. Let me say again: I never initiated the calls to him except this single
time after he kept pestering me with his text messages.
– When he answered the call he said: Mabuti naman Justice tumawag ka, kasi malapit na ang deadline ng submission ng memorandum. Pinag-isipan mo bang mabuti ang offer namin? Kasi sayang din kung di mo tatanggapin, Kasi kahit aabot itong kaso sa Supreme Court, matatalo ka din. Sayang lang ‘yung P10 million. Baka sisihin ka pa ng mga anak mo.
– Again, I was shocked at the things he was saying, and could not believe he would repeat an offer which I had already rejected. I repeated my “NO.” And then, because his insistence seemed to me like he could not understand why I kept saying “NO,” I tried to explain: If I accept that, my conscience will bother me forever. How can I face my wife and two daughters? One a lawyer and the other a Numerary member of Opus Dei? And besides, how can I reconcile my being a member of
PHILJA’s Ethics and Judicial Conduct Department; being a lecturer of the MCLE; and being a Pre-Bar Reviewer of the Ateneo Law School on Legal and Judicial Ethics?
– At that point, he told me: Wala naman kaming pinapagawa sa iyo na illegal, eh.
– And he added: You know Justice, after two or three weeks, makakalimutan na ito ng mga tao.
– And he said: Meron naman diyang mga Atenista na tumatanggap.
– I told him: I don’t know about them, but I am different.
– Then he said: Well, if you will not accept, we will be forced to look for other ways.
– Then I told him: But they will have to contend with me.
– As a parting statement, he said: Justice, no matter what, saludo talaga ako sa iyo.

22. The details I have set out are the extent of my conversation with Mr. Francis De Borja. In no occasion did I solicit any money or favor from him.

23. Then, as you know, on July 7, 2008, MERALCO filed a motion for Justice Bienvenido Reyes to assume the chairmanship. The rest that happened after that last conversation are as I narrated in my
complaint letter to Presiding Justice Conrado Vazquez.

24. Allow me to say that I would not concoct this story to put my own integrity or my safety or the safety of my family at risk. But in coming out with the bare facts—including names of people as they were mentioned and events as they have happened—I may have compromised my own safety and the safety of the people I know and love.

25. My family and friends have supported my decision to do so, knowing my desire to preserve the integrity of the Court of which I am part, and the laws of this country which I have pledged to uphold, honor and obey. More importantly, I only desire to tell the truth, and I swear by these statements on my honor as a Justice of the Court of Appeals, but most especially on my honor as a Head Servant of a Catholic Christian Community (Fruit of the Holy Spirit of Gusa, Cagayan de Oro) for more than 25 years.

JOSE L. SABIO, JR. (signed)
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
COURT OF APPEALS

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