Phone call to brother earns former PCGG chair Sabio 6 years in jail

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    FORMER Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chairman Camilo Sabio is facing six years in jail for calling and attempting to influence his brother, former Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jose Sabio, on a pending case.

    The latter’s refusal to be swayed saved the accused from a second graft conviction that would have doubled his sentence.

    In a 15-page decision promulgated November 29, 2019, a special division of five justices of the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division voted 3-2 to pronounce the former PCGG chief guilty of one count of violation of Section 3 (a) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act while exonerating him on the second one.

    Associate Justices Bayani H. Jacinto and Kevin Narce B. Vivero concurred in the majority ruling penned by Associate Justice Reynaldo P. Cruz.

    Associate Justices Efren N. dela Cruz and Alex L. Quiroz, division chairman, voted to acquit the accused on both counts.

    Case records showed chairman Sabio received a phone call from Atty. Jesus Santos, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), on May 30, 2008 informing him that a case filed by the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) against the GSIS has landed in the division chaired by his brother Justice Sabio.

    By his own admission, the PCGG chair said Santos asked for help in the case.

    Chairman Sabio likewise admitted that, over the phone, he tried to convince his brother “of the rightness of the stand of the GSIS” and requested the latter to help the government pension fund.

    The appellate court magistrate, however, said he will vote according to his conscience and that the most he could do was to schedule oral arguments regarding Meralco’s request for a temporary restraining order against the GSIS.

    Justice Sabio and the two other members of the CA Division eventually granted Meralco’s petition for injunctive relief and issued a TRO against GSIS, disregarding the wishes of his brother.

    The CA justice died on April 18, 2012, four years before the Office of the Ombudsman came out with a finding of probable cause against his brother and subsequently filed criminal charges against him at the Sandiganbayan.

    “The evidence on record confirms that accused Sabio indeed allowed himself to be persuaded and induced by Atty. Santos to call Justice Sabio for the purpose of persuading the later to favor the cause of the GSIS against Meralco,” the Sandiganbayan said.

    It noted that chairman Sabio’s actions constituted a violation of Canon 13 of the Code of Conduct of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers.

    However, on the second graft case, the Sandiganbayan held that the action of Justice Sabio contrary to the express wishes of his own brother saved the latter from a second conviction for graft due to the absence of the second element of the criminal offense which requires that the offender “persuades, induces or influences another public officer to perform an act.”

    “Justice Sabio did not do as his brother asked. This inaction on the part of Justice Sabio negates the presence of the second element,” the Sandiganbayan said.

    In their separate dissenting opinions, Justices Quiroz and dela Cruz said Chairman Sabio should be acquitted because the alleged graft offense was not consummated due to the absence of gain on the part of the accused.

    “If there is no proof …that the said accused received or is expecting to receive material remuneration in exchange for his use of influence upon another public officer, the accused cannot be held criminally liable,” Dela Cruz said.