Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Judge’s suspension over Golden Buddha reopens old wounds

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines -- The suspension slapped by the Supreme Court on the judge hearing the custody case of the controversial Golden Buddha here has reopened old wounds among the heirs of Rogelio Roxas, the statue's finder.

Jose Roxas, Rogelio's eldest brother, absolved former president Ferdinand Marcos anew of charges that the deposed strongman's family seized the statue from the Roxas house in Aurora Hill here in April 1971.

Jose Roxas, 74, refused to comment directly on Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan's suspension but said the Marcos family had been unduly dragged in the Golden Buddha case.

"There was never a Golden Buddha. The statue in the court's custody is the same statue my brother, Rogelio, discovered in 1971," Roxas told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview on Tuesday from his shop in Olongapo City where he works as a locksmith.

"I was there when the raid happened. No golden statue was taken," he said.

And just like in the past, Roxas' declarations did not sit well with Henry Roxas, Rogelio's eldest son, who said his uncle's statements caused their family's division and quarrel.

Henry, 40, and brother Jervic, 37, are contesting Jose Roxas' petition before the court that he be allowed to take custody of the brass-plated Buddha that had been in the court's vault for 36 years.

Judge Antonio Reyes of the regional trial court here ruled on May 30, 1996 that the statue in the court's custody was the same statue that was seized by soldiers from Rogelio Roxas.

Reyes said the Golden Buddha was a yarn concocted by people who wanted to take part of the Marcos wealth.

He then ordered that the statue in court be released to the estate of Rogelio Roxas. Rogelio died under mysterious circumstances in 1993.

Despite Henry and Jervic's objections, Jose Roxas renewed the interest in the Buddha in 2006 when he asked the court, now presided over by Pamintuan, to release to him the statue.

On August 15, 2006, Pamintuan ruled that the statue in the court's custody was fake and a mere replica of the original Golden Buddha, which had a detachable head.

"The Buddha had been in the unlawful possession of persons who do not have the title over it or any right to possess it," he said.

Former First Lady Imelda Marcos filed an administrative complaint before the Supreme Court's office of the court administrator, which later recommended Pamintuan's preventive suspension. The Supreme Court suspended Pamintuan in a resolution dated July 31, 2007.

Pamintuan was charged with motu propio (acting on his own) reversing the decision of a co-equal judge that became final.

Reacting to the suspension, Henry Roxas said: "Ginagawa lang po niya yung trabaho niya at kung ano po yung tama. Isa po syang makatao. Walang pinapanigan. Bilib po ako sa kanya (He was just doing his job and what he thought was right. He does not favor anyone. I believe in him)."
By Delmar Cariño - Northern Luzon Bureau

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