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Rosario Castillo and Sonia Villasanta v.

Honorable Judge Celestino Juan


62 SCRA 126
January 28, 1975

Facts:
Petitioners, two young maidens who are the offended parties in two rape cases, assail the actuation of respondent Judge
and seek his disqualification on the ground of bias and prejudice. What was done by him, according to their petition, was
in disregard of the highly-prized ideal in adjudication, likewise a due process requirement, that a litigant "is entitled to
nothing less than the cold neutrality of an impartial judge."

Briefly, on two separate occassions, on August 15 and 27, 1974, in the secrecy of his chambers, he informed petitioners of
the weakness of their cases, the likelihood of a verdict of acquittal in favor of the accused, and impressed upon them that
it would be to their advantage to settle, as the most he could do on their behalf was to have such accused indemnify them.
This move, according to him, would assure their being spared from the embarassment occasioned by suits of this
character, clearly prejudicial to their future. These conversations took place even before the prosecution had finished
presenting its evidence, one of the petitioners not having testified as yet.

Respondent Judge could not very well deny that he did invite them to confer with him, but he would impress on this Court
that their version should not be lent credence and that he was prompted to act thus from the best of motives, "as an act of
charity" and as a "clear attempt to humanize justice." 2 With the problem thus laid bare and the essentials exposed to
view, it is obvious that the petitions are impressed with merit. Respect for a number of decisions, most of them recent in
character, yields no other conclusion.

Issue: Whether respondent judge should be disqualified from hearing the case? YES

Held:

In every litigation, especially in criminal cases, the manner and attitude of the trial judge are crucial to everyone
concerned, the offended party, no less than the accused. The judge should not indulge or even give the appearance of
catering to the at-times human failing of yielding to first impressions. He must refrain from reaching hasty conclusions or
prejudging matters, and keep himself away from the suspicion of reacting to feelings rather than to facts, of being
imprisoned in the net of his own sympathies and predilections. He must manifest to the parties as well as to the public that
he hears both side with patience and understanding to avoid reaching an unjust decision. Although it is not necessary that
he should possess marked proficiency in law, it is essential that he holds the balance true. Similarly, he should avoid any
conduct that casts doubt on his impartiality. The whole of this is not merely a matter of judicial ethics. It is impressed with
constitutional significance

While not entirely discounting the submission of respondent Judge that his final decision would depend on the evidence of
the complainants, it cannot be denied, however, that after his conference with them informing them of the weakness of
their cases, the likelihood of an acquittal of the accused, and the advantage of a settlement, they could no longer be
expected to have faith in his impartiality. Complainants could very well conclude that the respondent Judge had prejudged
the cases when he told them that their cases were weak even before they could have completed their evidence. The fact
that respondent Judge so acted because any monetary settlement would benefit them, considering their straightened
financial circumstances, was of no moment. Even admitting that, according to his beat lights, respondent Judge acted from
a sense of sympathy or "charity", his conduct cannot be said to be consonant with the exacting standard of the cold
neutrality of an impartial judge. The administration of justice would thus be subject to a reproach if respondent Judge
should not be disqualified.