Ex-Davao del Sur lawmaker fined for disrespecting SC

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Friday, March 14, 2014

FORMER Davao del Sur representative Marc Douglas Cagas IV was ordered to pay P20,000 for his snide remarks regarding the Supreme Court's (SC) decision to allow the plebiscite on the creation of Davao Occidental province.

In a resolution dated February 25, the SC found Cagas guilty of indirect contempt under the Rules of Civil Procedure and was warned not to repeat the same offense as he will have to face stiffer penalties.

Cagas' punishment stemmed from his letter to Court Administrator Midas Marquez, where he criticized the "level of deceitfulness" of the justice in-charge of the case and that the decision can "poison the minds of law students."

He then asked his "pards" Marquez to show the DVDs to the justices that would supposedly enlighten them on the issue of carving a new province out of Davao del Sur.

In his explanation to the Court, Cagas said his statements were not meant to disrespect the justices and that he was just carried away by his "passion and desire to improve the lot of his home province and its people."

"Cagas may have expressed himself poorly, but in the second paragraph of the letter, he communicates his continuing faith in the Court's capacity to act on the truth, hence his request for Attorney Marquez to show the DVDs to the justices 'para malaman nila ang totoo'," said Cagas' counsel Raquel Sanchez in the letter.

But the justices did not buy Cagas' apology, slamming the former legislator for trying to use Marquez to gain access to the members of the SC outside of the regular processes like pleadings.

The Court reminded Cagas that its decisions are always collegial. His petition to block the plebiscite in October last year was dismissed for lack of merit.

The justices were also not satisfied with Cagas' explanation for his statement about the "level of deceitfulness" of the decision writer and that the ruling can "poison the minds of law students."

"The making of contemptuous statements directed against the Court is an abuse of the right to free speech and degrades the administration of justice. Hence, the defamatory statements in the letter impaired public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary and not just of the ponente alone," the SC said through Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who wrote the decision on the assailed plebiscite.

A false charge hurled to the Court, even after a case is decided, cannot be justified since it might undermine the confidence of the people in the "honesty and integrity" of its members, the resolution stated.

The voting was 14-0, with Associate Justice Arturo Brion on official leave. (Sunnex)

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