SC partially restores dismissed judge’s benefits

SC partially restores dismissed judge’s benefits

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled to partly grant the plea for judicial clemency filed by former Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong, who was dismissed from the service seven years ago.

In its ruling recently published online, the SC en banc said that as a measure of mercy, it is granting Ong’s retirement benefits but less than two-thirds of his lump sum as penalty.

His disqualification from reemployment in any branch, agency, or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations, was also lifted.

“Considering the lapse of more than five years and subject to the usual clearances, Gregory Ong is not entitled to his full pension,” the court ruled.

The court also noted Ong’s current plight.

The medical abstract he submitted stated that his prostate cancer has recurred, which now requires him to undergo an operation and possible chemotherapy.

“Since his dismissal, he claims to have been having a difficult medical and financial state, and if he will be allowed to work again for the government, he can use his remaining productive years to redeem himself and to be of service to the public,” the court said.

In September 2014, the SC voted 8-5-2 to dismiss Ong from the service over his links with alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

The year before, during a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, whistleblower Benhur Luy testified that Ong had visited Napoles in her office.

The SC said the visit was grossly improper and in violation of the New Code of Judicial Conduct as “a judge must not only be impartial but also appear to be impartial.”

“Fraternizing with litigants tarnishes this appearance,” the SC ruled then.

In 2019, Ong pleaded for judicial clemency and asked that his retirement benefits be restored and that the ban on his reemployment in the government be lifted.

Testimonies from retired SC Justice Jose Perez, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Vicente Joyas, and Antipolo priest Fr. Alexander Balatbat affirmed Ong’s uprightness.

“Remorse and reformation must reflect how the claimant has redeemed moral aptitude by clearly understanding the gravity and consequences of the conduct,” the SC said in partially granting Ong’s petition. (PNA)

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