Bigay tapos bawi! CA rules fees paid to Sereno for PIATCO case illegal
The Court of Appeals (CA) has ruled illegal the payment of US$6.009 million to ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and her co-counsels who handled the government’s arbitration case against the builder of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.
In a recent 50-page decision, the CA Special 11th Division set aside the CA 17th Division’s January 20, 2017 ruling ordering the Philippine International Air Terminals Company, Inc. (Piatco) to pay the government for the costs of the arbitration proceedings.
The CA reinstated the August 29, 2014 decision of the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 213, which ruled that the order for Piatco to shoulder the government’s attorney’s fees was unenforceable.
Although the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration ordered Piatco to pay the costs of the suit, the CA agreed with the RTC that the government irregularly procured the services of Sereno and her co-counsels.
This was because the services of the late Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Florentino Feliciano and his then-aide Sereno did not go through public bidding and there was no appropriation for the expenditure.
Of the $6.009-million payments, Sereno receive $324,674.37; the government’s 15-percent deduction allowed her to take home $275,973.21.
“The procurement of the services of local and foreign lawyers—whether as expert witnesses or consultants, or counsel in the arbitration proceedings—should comply with the provisions of [Republic Act Number] 9184 (Government Procurement Act) and its [implementing rules and regulations],” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Ramon Bato.
The CA stressed that the Office of the Solicitor-General, which engaged the services of Feliciano and Sereno, “should lead by example and should advocate for the full implementation of RA 9184 in order to achieve its laudable objective of promoting transparency and accountability in the procurement of goods and services in all branches and instrumentalities of government.”
The case was reraffled to the Special 11th Division, after Piatco sought the inhibition of Associate Justice Marlene Gonzales-Sison, the writer of the 17th Division decision, because of “her close association with a personality whose interest is adverse to Piatco’s position,” referring to Sereno.