Naga judge inhibits from hearing P4.5 B class suit
BRANCH 76 Presiding Judge Dennis Larrobis of the Naga City Regional Trial Court (RTC) has inhibited from hearing the P4.5-billion environmental class suit against Apo Land and Quarry Corporation (ALQC), its sister companies and three government agencies.
Larrobis issued his recusal order before the scheduled hearing on Wednesday, November 14, where he was supposed to decide if it is necessary for the court to extend the 72-hour temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) it has issued last Friday against the quarry operations of ALQC.
ALQC filed the petition for Larrobis to voluntarily inhibit from the case believing that the judge has ‘close relationship’ with the plaintiffs’ counsel, lawyer Benjamin Cabrido.
The company, through their counsels, argued that doubts may arise on the objectivity of the judge considering that Larrobis and Cabrido are graduates of the same law school and ‘brothers’ in one law fraternity.
The petition further claimed that Larrobis shared a private conversation with one of the counsels of the complainants, Lawyer Xzajyk Caing, and discussed the manner in serving the Tepo issued last Friday, November 9.
“Taking into consideration the presiding judge’s close personal relationship with Atty. Cabrido; and his private conversation with Atty. Caing as well as the latter’s actuation in the service of the Tepo, there are just and valid reasons which cast doubt on the presiding judge’s proper and impartial disposition of a case,” a portion of the petition read.
Though Larrobis heeded the petition of ALQC, the judge maintained that there was no ‘private conversation’ that transpired between him and Atty. Caing and that the only discussion that was made was if the latter may be allowed to serve the Tepo.
Considering that no court sheriff is assigned to Branch 76, Larrobis admitted that he consulted clerk of court in his sala if that could be applied.
Caing was able to serve the Tepo to Apo Cement Corp., one of the respondents, on Friday at 4:58 p.m.
“But after a rational assessment, the undersigned opts to recuse in sitting this case… This inhibition is in order to free the court of the slightest suspicion of bias and prejudice,” Larrobis’ recusal order read.
Although he finds it unfortunate, Cabrido welcomed the decision of the judge in order to prove that whatever judgment that the court will arrive at will be impartial.
The P4.5 billion class suit over the September 20 Naga City landslide was filed by at least 36 victims, a concerned
citizen, and an environmental non-government organization.
Among the respondents of the case are ALQC, Apo Cement Corp, Cemex Holdings Phils., Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-7), Naga City government and the Cebu provincial government.
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