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Appellate court gives priority to oil firms' audit

THE Court of Appeals said Friday will give priority to hearing the petition filed by Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. seeking to void a Manila court’s order to open the books of the Big Three oil companies. The court’s Special First Division, through Presiding Justice Andres Reyes, said they needed to give priority to the case because the issue affected the general public. The division set a hearing on the case on Jan. 17. The appeals court had earlier shelved a decision to dump a petition from the Social Justice Society to compel Pilipinas Shell, Chevron and Petron to open their books of account for examination to determine if they were engaged in monopoly and predatory pricing. It then granted a petition by Shell seeking to reverse the order issued by Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. on April 27, 2009, which granted the Social Justice Society’s petition. In suspending its own ruling, the court cited a similar case pending before the Supreme Court filed by the Audit Commission, Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs. While the relief sought in the petition before the Supreme Court is different from the case in the appellate court, which assails Pampilo’s continued assumption of jurisdiction on the Big Three’s case, the appellate court said that “a necessary consequence in determining the order’s validity involves the resolution of the same issues raised and passed upon” by it in its Aug. 6 decision. Under the principle of judicial courtesy, a lower court should desist from proceeding to deliberate on a case if there is no temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.
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