The Supreme Court has partially granted the plea for judicial clemency sought by former Sandiganbayan associate Justice Gregory Ong who was ordered dismissed from the service in 2014 after an investigation had established his linked with suspected pork barrel scam architect Janet Lim-Napoles.
In an en banc decision, the SC through Associate Justice Marvic Leonen granted the plea of Ong, saying the former anti-graft court justice’s demonstration of remorse and reformation, along with his current health condition, are sufficient for the Court to mitigate his penalty.
“A better and more humane society, and the implementation of its laws and rules, is the teleology of clemency. It should enable what is good in society rather than undermine the implementation of its ethical values enshrined in its laws and rules,” the 15-member bench said, in a unanimously ruling.
“With the second chance given him, this Court will expect much from Ong. We hope that he will not disappoint,” it added.
In partially granting his plea for judicial clemency, the SC reinstated his retirement benefits, but decided to forfeit two-thirds of his lump sum benefit as penalty.
It also lifted the ban it imposed on Ong’s re-employment in any branch, agency or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.
“Considering the lapse of more than five years and subject to the usual clearances, Gregory Ong is now entitled to his full pension,” the tribunal said.
In September 2014, the Court declared Ong guilty of gross misconduct, dishonesty and impropriety” under the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary which carries the penalty of dismissal from the service and the forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued benefits.
It also prohibited the associate justice from seeking re-employment in any government offices including government-owned or controlled corporations.
The high tribunal adopted the findings of retired Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez who was tasked to conduct a probe into allegations that surfaced during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on September 26, 2013 on the pork barrel scam involving Napoles. Rey Requejo
During the senate probe, pork barrel scam “whistleblowers” Benhur Luy and Marina Sula testified that Ong were among the personalities who visited Napoles’ office at the Discovery Suites in Ortigas and joined her parties.
Luy and Sula claimed that Ong acted as contact of Napoles in connection with the Kevlar case , involving the ghost purchase of 500 Kevlar helmets worth P3.8 million using government funds in 1998. Rey Requejo
They claimed that Ong, being Napoles’ contact in the Sandiganbayan, fixed the Kevlar case resulting in Napoles acquittal.
The justice, however, belied favoring Napoles, explaining that the Kevlar Helmet case was dismissed by the members of the court division that acted as a collegial body.
While the evidence was insufficient to prove bribery and corruption charges against Ong since both Luy and Sula did not witness him receiving money from Napoles, the Court found “credible” evidence of Ong’s association with Napoles after the promulgation of the Kevlar case.
The Court said Ong’s act of going to Napoles’ office on two occasions, exposed himself to the suspicion that he was partial to Napoles.
In November 2019 or five years after, Ong filed a plea before the Court seeking for judicial clemency, praying that his retirement benefits be restored and that the ban against his re-employment in the government be lifted.
Ong told the high court that he took full responsibility for his actions and accepted the Court’s adverse decision as an expression of repentance for his wrongdoings.
He added that his dismissal has turned him into a “remorseful and better individual “ and that even after his removal from the service he continued to provide free legal service.
Ong also submitted a medical abstract stating that his prostate cancer has recurred and he needs to have an operation and possible chemotherapy.
Since his dismissal, Ong claimed that he has been in a difficult medical and financial state.
Ong stressed that if he would be allowed to again work for the government, he can use his remaining productive years to redeem himself and to be of service to the public.