CA defers implementation of decision nullifying ruling on audit of Big 3

Published by rudy Date posted on March 30, 2011

MANILA, Philippines –  Amid successive increases in fuel prices, the country’s three biggest oil firms are not yet off the hook from the bid of a civil society group to have their books of accounts opened for government examination in connection with allegations of predatory pricing and cartelization.

This developed after the Court of Appeals (CA) has deferred implementation of its decision in August last year nullifying an earlier ruling of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 26, which ordered the opening of the books of Petron Corp., Pilipinas Shell and Chevron Philippines upon petition of Social Justice System (SJS).

In a nine-page resolution released last Monday, the former special first division of the appellate court granted the petition of SJS lawyer Vladimir Cabigao, which sought suspension of implementation of its ruling due to a pending related petition in the Supreme Court.

The CA cited judicial courtesy in giving way to the resolution of the petition filed by Commission on Audit, Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs before the High Court.

The petition of the government agencies seeks the nullification of order issued by Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. on April 27, 2009 to open and audit the books of account of the oil firms on the ground of grave abuse of discretion.

While the relief sought in the petition before the Supreme Court is different from the case in the CA, which assails the continued assumption of jurisdiction of Judge Pampilo over the case, the appellate court stressed that “a necessary consequence in determining the order’s validity involves the resolution of the same issues raised and passed upon” by its decision last year which granted the petition for review filed by Pilipinas Shell.

“This being the case, and in observance of the principle of ‘judicial courtesy’ we deem it wise to defer anew the resolution of herein private respondents motion for reconsideration,” stated the ruling penned by Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr.

Associate Justices Vicente Veloso and Jane Aurora Lantion concurred with the ruling.

Under the principle of judicial courtesy, a lower court should desist from proceeding upon a case even in the absence of a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.

“The implementation of our assailed decision would, without doubt, render the proceedings before the Supreme Court ‘moot and moribund’’since this Court has already passed upon the issues of propriety of an action for declaratory relief, the validity of the public respondent court’s exercise of jurisdiction to issue orders for the audit and examination of the books of account of petitioner Shell, Caltex Philippines, Inc. and Petron Corporation,” the CA ruled. –Edu Punay (The Philippine Star)

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