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In Re: Allegations made under oath at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee against
Associate Justice Gregory S. Ong, Sandiganbayan

(The Party-Goer)

Eto yung nakiparty kay Janet Lim-Napoles. Not your typical case dismissed but
Associate Justice Dismissed.

Facts: The whistle-blowers, Marina Sula, a person who used to work with Mrs.
Napoles, stated in her affidavits with the NBI the names of those personalities who
allegedly transacted with or attended the parties and events, among whom is the
incumbent Sandiganbayan Associate Justice G.S. Ong. The following day, trending
ang lolo mo, Rappler posted an article by Aries Rufo entitled ―Exclusive: Napoles
Parties with Anti-Graft Court Justice‖ showing photograph of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada,
one of the main public figures involved in the pork barrel scam, together with Mrs.
Napoles and respondent.

In a letter addressed to the former CJ Sereno, Ong explained the controversial


photo which raised a question on his integrity as a magistrate, particularly in
connection with the decision rendered by the Sandiganbayan' s Fourth Division in
the Kevlar helmet cases, which convicted some of the accused but acquitted Mrs.
Napoles. Respondent surmised that the photograph was taken during the birthday
of Senator Estrada in February, either in the year 2012 or 2013, but definitely not
in 2010 or earlier. He explained that he could vaguely remember the circumstances
but it would have been rude for him to prevent any guest from posing with him and
Senator Estrada during the party. He stressed that these cases were decided on the
merits by the Sandiganbayan, acting as a collegial body and he was not even the
ponente of the decision.

CJ Sereno requested Court en banc to conduct investigation motu proprio. On


respondent‘s ccomment, Ong categorically denied any irregularity in the Kevlar
helmet cases and explained the visit he had made to Mrs. Napoles as testified by
Sula. Respondent maintains that there was nothing improper or irregular for him to
have personally seen Mrs. Napoles at the time in order to thank her, considering
that she no longer had any pending case with his court, and to his knowledge, with
any other division of the Sandiganbayan at the time and even until the date of the
preparation of his Comment.

Recommendation: be found guilty of gross misconduct, dishonesty, and impropriety,


all in violations of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary
and be meted the penalty of DISMISSAL from the service WITH FORFEITURE of
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all retirement benefits, excluding accrued leave credits, and WITH PREJUDICE to
reemployment to any government, including government-owned or controlled
corporations.

Ruling: DISMISSED. Court adopts the findings and recommendation of the


Investigating Justice.

Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a


forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, unlawful behavior, willful in character,
improper or wrong behavior; while ·"gross" has been defined as "out of all measure
beyond allowance; flagrant; shameful; such conduct as is not to be excused."

Respondent's association with Napoles during the pendency and after the
promulgation of the decision in the Kevlar case resulting in her acquittal,
constitutes gross misconduct notwithstanding the absence of direct evidence of
corruption or bribery in the rendition of the said judgment.

Notwithstanding the absence of direct evidence of any corrupt act by the


respondent, we find credible evidence of his association with Napoles after the
promulgation of the decision in the Kevlar case. The totality of the circumstances of
such association strongly indicates respondent's corrupt inclinations that only
heightened the public's perception of anomaly in the decision-making process. By
his act of going to respondent at her office on two occasions, respondent exposed
himself to the suspicion that he was partial to Napoles. That respondent was not
the ponente of the decision which was rendered by a collegial body did not forestall
such suspicion of partiality, as evident from the public disgust generated by the
publication of a photograph of respondent together with Napoles and Senator
Jinggoy Estrada. Indeed, the context of the declarations under oath by Luy and
Sula before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, taking place at the height of the
"Pork Barrel" controversy, made all the difference as respondent himself
acknowledged. Thus, even in the present administrative proceeding, their
declarations are taken in the light of the public revelations of what they know of
that government corruption controversy, and how it has tainted the image of the
Judiciary.

Respondent's act of voluntarily meeting with Napoles at her office on two occasions
was grossly improper and violated Section 1, Canon 4 (Propriety) of the New Code
of Judicial Conduct, which took effect on June 1, 2004.

SECTION 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in


all of their activities.
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A judge must not only be impartial but must also appear to be impartial and that
fraternizing with litigants tarnishes this appearance. Public confidence in the
Judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct of judges. A judge must
avoid all impropriety and the appearance thereof. Being the subject of constant
public scrutiny, a judge should freely and willingly accept restrictions on conduct
that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.

In Caneda v. Alaan [425 Phil. 20, 26-27 (2002)], it was held that: ―Judges are
required not only to be impartial but also to appear to be so, for appearance is an
essential manifestation of reality. Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins
judges to avoid not just impropriety in their conduct but even the mere appearance
of impropriety.

They must conduct themselves in such a manner that they give no ground for
reproach. [Respondent's] acts have been less than circumspect. He should have kept
himself free from any appearance of impropriety and endeavored to distance himself
from any act liable to create an impression of indecorum.‖

Case: Barias v. Judge Rubia

SC RULING: Respondent Judge Rubia Dismissed from service with corresponding


forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and disqualified
from reinstatement or appointment in any public office, including government
owned or -controlled corporations.

Respondent Eileen Pecaña (data encoder in the Office of the Clerk of Court of the
Regional Trial Court of Biñan, Laguna) is SUSPENDED for one (1) year for gross
misconduct.

FACTS: Eto yung case where the Judge met with the complainant over dinner with
Pecana in Café Juanity in The Fort, Bonifacio Global City. Chismosa si Judge so
over dinner she asked complainant inappropriate questions which were not
discussed in the pleadings or case. Judge said she knew the facts from Atty. Noel
Zarate (opposing counsel). Complainant alleged that respondent Judge Rubia acted
in a manner that showed manifest partiality in favor of the opposing parties,
namely, Romelias Almeda-Barias and Evelyn Tanael, as represented by their
counsel, Atty. Noe Zarate. Complainant alleged that respondent Judge Rubia
refused to issue Orders that would have allowed her to comply with her duties as
the special administrator of her late husband‘s estate. This included the order to
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conduct an inventory of the properties, rights, and credits of the deceased, subject to
the authority of the administrator. Complainant enumerated occasions that alleged
manifest partiality on the part of respondent Judge Rubia. She alleged that
respondent Judge Rubia failed to require a timely filing of the pre-trial brief on the
part of Evelyn Tanael and Romelias Almeda-Barias, and despite their
noncompliance on four (4) separate pre-trials that were postponed, Tanael and
Almeda-Barias were not declared in default. Complainant moved for Judge Rubia‘s
inhibition and subsequently filed a complaint against her in the OCA charging
respondent Pecaña for gross misconduct and respondent Judge Rubia for conduct
unbecoming of a judge, partiality, gross ignorance of the law or procedure,
incompetence, and gross misconduct.

RULING: As for Pecana: As a court employee, respondent Pecaña should have


known better than to interact with litigants in a way that could compromise the
confidence that the general public places in the judiciary. Respondent Pecaña
should have refused to meet with complainant in her home. She should have
refused any other form of extended communication with complainant, save for those
in her official capacity as a Data Encoder of the court. This continued
communication between complainant and respondent Pecaña makes her culpable
for failure to adhere to the strict standard of propriety mandated of court personnel.

Respondent Pecaña violated Canon 1 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel:

CANON I
FIDELITY TO DUTY

SECTION 3. Court personnel shall not discriminate by dispensing special favors to


anyone. They shall not allow kinship, rank, position or favors from any party to
influence their official acts or duties.

....

SECTION 5. Court personnel shall use the resources, property and funds under
their official custody in a judicious manner and solely in accordance with the
prescribed statutory and regulatory guidelines or procedures.

Respondent Pecaña‘s actions constitute a clear violation of the requirement that all
court personnel uphold integrity and prudence in all their actions.

Time and time again, we have stressed that the behavior of all employees and
officials involved in the administration of justice, from judges to the most junior
clerks, is circumscribed with a heavy responsibility. Their conduct must be guided
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by strict propriety and decorum at all times in order to merit and maintain the
public‘s respect for and trust in the judiciary. Needless to say, all court personnel
must conduct themselves in a manner exemplifying integrity, honesty and
uprightness.

As for Judge Rubia: Respondent Judge Rubia committed gross violations of the New
Code of Judicial Conduct.
By meeting a litigant and advising her to talk to opposing counsel, respondent
Judge Rubia violated several canons of the New Code of Judicial Conduct.

Respondent Judge Rubia failed to act in a manner that upholds the dignity
mandated by his office. He was already made aware of the impropriety of
respondent Pecaña‘s actions by virtue of her admissions in her comment. As a judge,
he had the authority to ensure that all court employees, whether or not they were
under his direct supervision, act in accordance with the esteem of their office.

A judge must be like Caesar‘s wife - above suspicion and beyond reproach.

Respondent‘s act discloses a deficiency in prudence and discretion that a member of


the Judiciary must exercise in the performance of his official functions and of his
activities as a private individual. It is never trite to caution respondent to be
prudent and circumspect in both speech and action, keeping in mind that her
conduct in and outside the courtroom is always under constant observation.

By participating in the dinner meeting and by failing to admonish respondent


Pecaña for her admitted impropriety, respondent Judge Rubia violated Canons 1
and 2 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct.

Canon 1 INDEPENDECE

Judicial Independence is a pre-requisite to the rule of law and a fundamental


guarantee of a fair trial. A judge shall therefore uphold and exemplify judicial
independence in both its individual and institutional aspects.

Section 1. Judges shall exercise the judicial function independently on the basis of
their assessment of the facts and in accordance with a conscientious understanding
of the law, free of any extraneous influence, inducement, pressure, threat or
interference, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.

Section 6. Judges shall be independent in relation to society in general and in


relation to the particular parties to a dispute which he or she has to adjudicate.
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Section 8. Judges shall exhibit and promote high standards of judicial conduct in
order to reinforce public confidence in the judiciary, which is fundamental to the
maintenance of judicial independence.

Canon 2 INTEGRITY

Integrity is essential not only to the proper discharge of the judicial office but also to
the personal demeanor of judges.

Section 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but
that it is perceived to be so in view of a reasonable observer.

Section 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the people‘s faith in the
integrity of the judiciary. Justice must not merely be done but must also be seen to
be done.

Section 3. Judges should take or initiate appropriate disciplinary measures against


lawyers or court personnel for unprofessional conduct of which the judge may have
become aware.

De la Cruz v. Judge Bersamira: By the very nature of the bench, judges, more than
the average man, are required to observe an exacting standard of morality and
decency. The character of a judge is perceived by the people not only through his
official acts but also through his private morals as reflected in his external
behavior. It is therefore paramount that a judge‘s personal behavior both in the
performance of his duties and his daily life, be free from the appearance of
impropriety as to be beyond reproach.

Castillo v. Judge Calanog, Jr.: The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the
conduct of a judge must be free of a whiff of impropriety not only with respect to his
performance of his judicial duties, but also to his behavior outside his sala as a
private individual. There is no dichotomy of morality: a public official is also judged
by his private morals. The Code dictates that a judge, in order to promote public
confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, must behave with
propriety at all times. As we have recently explained, a judge‘s official life cannot
simply be detached or separated from his personal existence.

Thus:

Being the subject of constant public scrutiny, a judge should freely and willingly
accept restrictions on conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary
citizen.
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A judge should personify judicial integrity and exemplify honest public service. The
personal behavior of a judge, both in the performance of official duties and in
private life should be above suspicion.

CANON 3. IMPARTIALITY

Impartiality is essential to the proper discharge of the judicial office. It applies not
only to the decision itself but also to the process by which the decision is made.

Section 1. Judges shall perform their judicial duties without favor, bias, or
prejudice.

Section 2. Judges shall ensure that his or her conduct, both in and out of court,
maintains and enhances the confidence of the public, the legal profession and
litigants in the impartiality of the judge and of the judiciary.

Section 3. Judges shall, so far as is reasonable, so conduct themselves as to


minimize the occasions on which it will be necessary for them to be disqualified
from hearing or deciding cases.

Section 4. Judges shall not knowingly, while a proceeding is before, or could come
before them, make any comment that might reasonably be expected to affect the
outcome of such proceeding or impair the manifest fairness of the process. Nor shall
judges make any comment in public or otherwise that might affect the fair trial of
any person or issue.

Pascual v. Judge Bonifacio: Upon assumption of office, a judge becomes the visible
representation of the law and of justice. Membership in the judiciary circumscribes
one's personal conduct and imposes upon him a number of inhibitions, whose
faithful observance is the price one has to pay for holding such an exalted position.
Thus, a magistrate of the law must comport himself at all times in such a manner
that his conduct, official or otherwise, can withstand the most searching public
scrutiny, for the ethical principles and sense of propriety of a judge are essential to
the preservation of the people's faith in the judicial system. This Court does not
require of judges that they measure up to the standards of conduct of the saints and
martyrs, but we do expect them to be like Caesar's wife in all their activities. Hence,
we require them to abide strictly by the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The totality of the actions of respondent Judge Rubia is a clear manifestation of a


lack of integrity and impartiality essential to a judge.
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By meeting with complainant, respondent Judge Rubia also violated Canon 4 of the
New Code of Judicial Conduct:

CANON 4. PROPRIETY

Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all the
activities of a judge.

Section 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all
of their activities.

Section 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must accept personal


restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should
do so freely and willingly. In particular, judges shall conduct themselves in a way
that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.

Section 3. Judges shall, in their personal relations with individual members of the
legal profession who practice regularly in their court, avoid situations which might
reasonably give rise to the suspicion or appearance of favoritism or partiality.

On propriety, this court held in Atty. Raul L. Correa v. Judge Medel Arnaldo Belen
that: Indeed, the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary exhorts
members of the judiciary, in the discharge of their duties, to be models of propriety
at all times.. . . .

A judge is the visible representation of the law. Thus, he must behave, at all times,
in such a manner that his conduct, official or otherwise, can withstand the most
searching public scrutiny. The ethical principles and sense of propriety of a judge
are essential to the preservation of the people's faith in the judicial system.

Because of the meeting, and the subsequent orders issued after the meeting,
respondent Judge Rubia violated the notions of propriety required of his office.
Respondents have relentlessly stood by their position that the meeting was a chance
encounter, and, thus, no impropriety could be attributed to the meeting itself.
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CASE: Spouses Somblon vs. Atty. Garay and Atty. Garay vs. Venadas, Sr.
(Consolidated case)

SC RULING:

Petition is DENIED. The June 13, 2007 Decision and August 8, 2007 Resolution of
the CA is affirmed.

In Administrative Matter No. RTJ-06-2000, Judge Rolando S. Venadas, Sr. of the


Regional Trial Court of Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Branch 8, is hereby found
guilty of grave abuse of authority bordering on gross ignorance of the law and is
ordered to pay a FINE of TWENTY THOUSAND PESOS (₱20,000.00) to be
deducted from the withheld amount of ₱100,000.00 from his retirement benefits
pursuant to the April 18, 2007 Resolution in A.M. No. 12600-Ret.

FACTS: Spouses were owners of property mortgaged and which was foreclosed by
PNB. They sought the help of Atty. Garay, a Public Attorney‘s Office (PAO) lawyer,
who was once appointed by the court as counsel de officio for Hilly Sombilon in a
criminal case and who happens to be the owner of a lot adjacent to the property.
Spouses wanted to reacquire the property but had no money to do so. Thus, they
were hoping that he would agree to advance the money and, in exchange, they
promised to sell him the 331-square meter portion of the property, where one of the
buildings is located, for ₱5 million. But Atty. Garay went to the bank alone and
offered to buy the property by making a down payment of ₱587,600.0016 or 20% of
the purchase price. Upon learning that Atty. Garay intended to purchase the entire
property for himself, spouses Sombilon offered to buy back the property from PNB.
The bank advised them to make a 10% down payment of the bank‘s total claim to
formalize their offer. PNB decided to approve the purchase offer of Atty. Garay
since spouses Sombilon failed to make the required down payment.

PNB filed for Ex Parte Petition for issuance of a writ of possession. Judge Venadas,
Sr. Granted the petition in favour of PNB. PNB informed spouses Sombilon that
Atty. Garay‘s offer to purchase the property had been approved due to their failure
to pay the full down payment. Spouses Somblon moved for a reconsideration of the
issuance of the Writ of Possession arguing that Atty. Garay, who was the former
counsel of Hilly, was barred from purchasing the property (Art. 1491 of Civil Code).

RTC ordered to hold in abeyance implementation of writ of possession, because


although admittedly, ordinarily the writ of possession is mandatory and ministerial
duty but exception daw is if it works to the great injustice of the registered owner
because PNB and Atty Garay, counsel for Somblons is not entitled to it but it was
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finally bought by Atty. Garay which is a possible violation of the canons of legal and
judicial ethics.

Aggrieved, Atty. Garay and PNB elevated the case to the CA with prayer for TRO.
TRO was granted. Petition for Certiorari granted. The CA found grave abuse of
discretion on the part of Judge Venadas, Sr. in holding in abeyance the
implementation of the Writ of Possession. Spouses elevated the case.

Meanwhile, Atty. Garay filed a Verified Complaint against Judge Venadas, Sr.,
charging him with Grave Abuse of Authority and Grave Misconduct when he
proceeded with the hearing of spouses Sombilon‘s motion for reconsideration of the
Order granting the issuance of the Writ of Possession despite lack of notice to PNB
and for holding in abeyance the Writ of Possession. Atty. Garay claims that Judge
Venadas, Sr. should be administratively sanctioned for holding in abeyance the
Writ of Possession he earlier issued and for ignoring Sections 4, 5, and 6 of Rule 15
of the Rules of Court. Judge Venadas, Sr. denies the charges against him arguing
that he did not annul the Writ of Possession but merely stayed its execution and
implementation to prevent any injustice. OCA found Judge Venadas, Sr.
administratively liable for grave abuse of authority bordering on gross ignorance of
procedure. Although the OCA did not touch on the issue of whether Judge Venadas,
Sr. should be administratively sanctioned for holding in abeyance the
implementation of the Writ of Possession as it was still pending with the CA at that
time, it nevertheless found Judge Venadas, Sr. guilty of blatantly disregarding
Sections 4, 5, and 6 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court when he acted on the defective
motion filed by spouses Sombilon.

RULING: Spouses Sombilon claim that the sale between PNB and Atty. Garay was
invalid as it was done in violation of paragraph 5, Article 1491 of the Civil Code.
However, the alleged invalidity of the sale is not a ground to oppose or defer the
issuance of the Writ of Possession as this does not affect PNB‘s right to possess the
subject property. Thus, there was no reason for Judge Venadas, Sr. to hold in
abeyance the implementation of the Writ of Possession. Clearly, he committed grave
abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed Order holding in abeyance the
implementation of the Writ of Possession because PNB, as the registered owner, is
entitled to the possession of the subject property as a matter of right.

As to the Administrative Complaint filed against Judge Venadas, Sr., we agree with
the findings and recommendations of the OCA. Blatant disregard of basic,
elementary, and well-known rules of procedure and law is gross ignorance of the
law, which is classified as a serious charge under Rule 140, Section 8 of the Rules of
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Court, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, punishable by either dismissal from


service, suspension for more than three months but not exceeding six months, or a
fine of more than ₱20,000.00 but not exceeding ₱40,000.00.

CASE: Re: Interview with Atty. Lorna Kapunan on Corruption in the Judiciary.

FACTS: After an interview siya ni Anthony Taberna in Umagang Kay Ganda


regarding corruption in the judiciary. So she was asked to explain because in her
answers in the interview before a nationwide television audience, she made
unwarranted remarks which tended to erode the public trust and confidence in the
judiciary. Atty. Kapunan explains she made no personal accusation against any
court or judge. She adds that when imparting information on corruption, and bribe
money, based on hearsay and/or general information within the legal circles, she, in
the interest of candor and transparency, would use the appropriate caveats –
―known to receive‖, ―I am told‖, ―hindi ko po alam‖. She even cited CJ Sereno when
it stressed in her speech to help eliminate the so-called ―hoodlums in robes‖ in the
judiciary. Atty. Kapunan claims that the remarks made were NOT intended to
insult, malign or embarrass or bring the Court into dispute. She said ―a lawyer is
entitled to voice his criticism within the context of the constitutional guarantee of
freedom of speech which must be exercised responsibly. Freedom is not freedom
from responsibility but freedom with responsibility.

RULING: True, well-recognized is the right of lawyers, both as officers of the court
and as citizens, to criticize the courts or any of its officers. The right, however, is
without limitations. Atty. K should be reminded that comment made against the
courts must not go beyond the bounds of courtesy and fairness in order not to
destroy the people‘s trust in the judicial system.

In ―In re: Almacen‖, the cardinal condition of all such criticism that it shall be bona
fide and shall not spill over the walls of decency and propriety. A wide chasm exists
between fair criticism, on the other hand, and slander of courts and judges thereof,
on the other. Intemperate and unfair criticism is a gross violation of the duty of
respect to courts. It is such a misconduct that subjects lawyers to disciplinary
action.

It is well to remind Atty. K that, as member of the bar, she is under obligation to
maintain at all times a respectful attitude towards the courts. This responsibility of
a lawyer is imposed in the CPR.

CANON 10 – AL owes CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND GOOD FAITH to the court.


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CANON 11 – ALS observe and maintain the respect due to the Courts and to the
Judicial Officers and should insist on similar conduct by others.

Rule 11.03 – ALS abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or


behaviour before the Courts.

She is reminded that the rules on courteous demeanor must, according to the Court,
be observed not only in open court. But also out of court. At the moment there is no
solid basis to proceed against her but Justice Brion and Justice Leonen stated the
matter should be dealt with as inaction would place in question the integrity of the
justice system in the public‘s eye.

CASE: Carbajosa v. Judge HANNIBAL Patricio (real name niya. lol)

SC: Judge HP is found guilty of Gross Ignorance of the Law and FINED in the
amount of ₱21 ,000.00, with a stern WARNING

FACTS: Complainant is a private complainant in criminal case for grave coercion


against accused Dolores Bieles, heard and tried before the MCTC-Roxas, Capiz in
the sala of then Presiding Judge Geomer C. Delfin. The charge stemmed from
Bieles‘ menacing and intimidating attitude in preventing Carbajosa from bringing
to Iloilo City fifteen (15) sacks of milled corn by removing and unloading the same
out of the latter‘s Efren Bus Liner. MCTC convicted Bieles. On appeal, the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Roxas City, Branch 18,affirmed Bieles‘ conviction but modified
her sentence by increasing the maximum penalty imposed to two (2) years, four (4)
months and one (1) day of prision correccional. Petition for review and Motion to set
aside filed by Bieles were also denied. Meanwhile, Carbajosa filed a motion before
the RTC for the remand of the case to the court of origin for proper execution. The
motion was granted.

Carbajosa thereafter filed a Motion for Execution of Judgment before the MCTC
presided by herein respondent Judge Patricio. Bieles opposed the motion stating
that she sent a letter addressed to the Chief Justice, Honorable Reynato S. Puno
asking for a review of her case on the merits. She claimed that the letter was
favorably acted upon as evidenced by the first endorsement dated January25, 2010
requesting the Clerk of Court of the Third Division to include the case in its agenda.
Judge Patricio resolved to hold in abeyance the resolution of Carbajosa‘s Motion for
Execution of Judgment and await the result of the referral/endorsement made by
the Chief Justice before a ruling on the propriety of the issuance of a writ of
execution is made. Carbajosa manifested his objection to the foregoing order and
insisted on the issuance of a writ of execution averring that in the absence of any
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restraining order, its issuance is imperative so as not to unduly delay the


administration of justice. Judge Patricio reiterated his stance. Bieles thereafter
moved that the property bond she initially posted be substituted by a cash bond
because the former was already needed by her bondsman. The motion was
vehemently opposed by Carbajosa but Judge HP granted it. Judge HP disclosed that
he sent a query to the OCA regarding the effect of the Chief Justice‘s endorsement
of Bieles‘ letter to the implementation of the final judgment of her conviction. Atty.
Geronga informed Judge Patricio that the subject matter of his query is judicial in
nature hence, beyond the mandate of the OCA. Also, as a matter of policy, the OCA
refrains from rendering an opinion on matters that may later on be brought to the
Court for judicial determination. Atty. Geronga suggested that the issue be resolved
based on pertinent jurisprudence and relevant laws. Anent the granting of Bieles‘
motion to suspend proceedings, Judge Patricio again reasoned that any action on
the issuance of the writ of execution should await the resolution by the Third
Division of the Supreme Court on Bieles‘ letter as endorsed by the Chief Justice.

These circumstances prompted Carbajosa to institute the herein administrative


complaint imputing gross ignorance of the law, manifest partiality and evident bad
faith against Judge Patricio in continuously deferring the issuance of a writ of
execution for the final and executory judgment in the Criminal Case.

OCA accorded merit to the complaint. The OCA found Judge Patricio guilty of gross
ignorance of the law and recommended that he should be fined in the amount of
₱21,000.00.

RULING: SC agreed with OCA‘s findings and recommendation.

Any delay in the full execution of a final and executory decision is repugnant to the
ideal administration of justice. Hence the rule that once a judgment attains finality,
it thereby becomes immutable and unalterable. The enforcement of such judgment
should not be hampered or evaded; for the immediate enforcement of the parties‘
rights, confirmed by final judgment, is a major component of the ideal
administration of justice.

Respondent Judge Patricio, however, demonstrated ignorance of the above rule by


repeatedly refusing to execute the final and executory judgment of conviction
against Bieles.

Citing Spouses Monterola v. Judge Caoibes, Jr.: When the law is sufficiently basic,
a judge owe sit to his office to simply apply it; anything less than that is either
deliberate disregard thereof or gross ignorance of the law. It is a continuing
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pressing responsibility of judges to keep abreast with the law and changes therein.
Ignorance of the law, which everyone is bound to know, excuses no one ― not even
judges ― from compliance therewith. We cannot expect a judge to deliberately
disregard an unequivocal rule on execution and a doctrine laid down by the
Supreme Court. Canon 4 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics requires that the judge
should be studious of the principles of law.1âwphi1 Canon18 mandates that he
should administer his office with due regard to the integrity of the system of the law
itself, remembering that he is not a depository of arbitrary power, but a judge under
the sanction of law. Indeed, it has been said that when the inefficiency springs from
a failure to consider a basic and elemental rule, a law or principle in the discharge
of his duties, a judge is either too incompetent and undeserving of the position and
the title he holds or is too vicious that the oversight or omission was deliberately
done in bad faith and in grave abuse of judicial authority x x x.

CASE: Garado v. Judge Gutierrez-Torres

SC: Respondent is LIABLE of the less serious charges of undue delay in resolving
the civil case (Maricor Garado v. Rose Virgie Estor for collection of sum of money
and damages) and violation of the SC derivatives. She is FINED the amount or
₱20,000 for the first offense and another ₱10,000 for the second offense, both
amounts to be deducted from her accrued leave credits.

FACTS: She filed civil case for sum of money and damages but was left unresolved
for more than 20 months from the time it was filed. Her complaint against
defendant Rose Virgie Estor was filed on August 22, 2005. After respondent judge
denied defendant Estor‘s motion to dismiss on July 3, 2006, Estor thereafter filed an
Urgent Ex-parte Motion for Extension of Time (To File Responsive Pleading)
followed by a second motion to dismiss on November 16, 2006. Complainant,
meanwhile, filed a motion to render judgment with an opposition to the second
motion to dismiss on November 27, 2006. The two motions were submitted for
resolution on November 27, 2006 and January 15, 2007, respectively, but both
motions remained unresolved as of the date of the filing of the complaint on May 9,
2007. Judge EGT failed to comment in both tracers sent by OCA.

OCA‘s recommendation:

1. RE-DOCKET the case as a regular administrative matter against respondent


Judge Lizabeth G. Torres;
15

2. DISMISS respondent Judge Lizabeth G. Torres from the service and impose upon
her all the attendant penalties; and

3. IMPOSE upon respondent Judge Lizabeth G. Torres the penalty of FIVE (5) days
imprisonment for her failure to pay the FINE of ₱1,000.00 within the required
period, pursuant to the Court‘s Resolution dated 14 July 2008.

In recommending the penalty of dismissal, the OCA noted that in five previous
administrative cases, respondent was found liable for undue delay in rendering a
decision, resolution or order, and sternly warned that the commission of the same or
similar offense will be dealt with more severely. The OCA also noted eight other
pending administrative casesfiled by different litigants against respondent judge
involving offenses of similar nature. As well, the OCA noted the four instances
under the present administrative case where respondent judge failed to comply with
directives/orders issued by this Court.

RULING: SC agreed with OCA. Section 15(1), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution,
mandates that cases or matters filed with the lower courts must be decided or
resolved within three months from the date they are submitted for decision or
resolution. With respect to cases falling under the 1991 Revised Rule on Summary
Procedure, first level courts are only allowed 30 days following the receipt of the last
affidavit and position paper, or the expiration of the period for filing the same,
within which to render judgment. Section 6 of the said Rule also requires first level
courts to render judgment motu proprio or upon motion of the plaintiff if the
defendant fails to file an answer to the complaint within the allowable period.

Judges are oft-reminded of their duty to act promptly upon cases and matters
pending before their courts. Rule 3.05, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct
directs judges to "dispose of the court‘s business promptly and decide cases within
the required periods." Canons 6 and 7 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics further
exhort judges to be prompt and punctual in the disposition and resolution of cases
and matters pending before their courts:

6. PROMPTNESS

He should be prompt in disposing of all matters submitted to him, remembering


that justice delayed is often justice denied.

7. PUNCTUALITY

He should be punctual in the performance of his judicial duties, recognizing that the
time of litigants, witnesses, and attorneys is of value and that if the judge is
16

unpunctual in his habits, he sets a bad example to the bar and tends to create
dissatisfaction with the administration of justice.1âwphi1

Administrative Circular No. 1 dated January 28, 1988 likewise reminds all judges
to observe scrupulously the periods prescribed in Section 15, Article VIII of the 1987
Constitution and to act promptly on all motions and interlocutory matters pending
before their courts.

Prompt disposition of cases is attained basically through the efficiency and


dedication to duty of judges. If judges do not possess those traits, delay in the
disposition of cases is inevitable to the prejudice of litigants. Accordingly, judges
should be imbued with a high sense of duty and responsibility in the discharge of
their obligation to administer justice promptly.

In this case, respondent judge failed to live up to the exacting standards of duty and
responsibility that her position required.

CASE: Decena v. Malanyaon

The Lawyer of the Lawyer daw siya kasi anak niya counsel for her mom‘s case

SC: JUDGE NILO A. MALANYAON is administratively liable for conduct


unbecoming of a Judge, and penalizes him with a fine of ₱40,000.00.

A judge may not involve himself in any activity that is an aspect of the private
practice of law. His acceptance of an appointment to the Bench inhibits him from
engaging in the private practice of law, regardless of the beneficiary of the activity
being a member of his immediate family. He is guilty of conduct unbecoming of a
judge otherwise.

FACTS: Complainant Rey C. Decena had brought an administrative case against


Judge Malanyaon‘s wife, Dr. Amelita C. Malanyaon (Dr. Amelita), then the
Assistant Provincial Health Officer of the Province of Camarines Sur. during the
hearing of the administrative case on May 4, 2006, Judge Malanyaon sat beside his
daughter, Atty. Ma. Kristina C. Malanyaon, the counsel of Dr. Amelita in the case.

Judge Malanyaon coached her daughter in making manifestations/motions before


the hearing officer, by scribbling on some piece of paper and giving the same to the
former, thus prompting her daughter to rise from her seat and/or ask permission
from the officer to speak, and then make some manifestations while reading or
glancing on the paper given by Judge Malanyaon. At one point, Judge Malanyaon
17

even prompted her daughter to demand that Atty. Eduardo Loria, the collaborating
counsel of our principal counsel, Atty. Mary Ailyne Zamora, be required to produce
his PTR number.

When our principal counsel, Atty. Zamora, arrived and took over from Atty. Loria,
she inquired regarding the personality of Judge Malanyaon, being seated at the
lawyer‘s bench beside Atty. Malanyaon, Judge Malanyaon then proudly introduced
himself and manifested that he was the "counsel of the respondent‘s counsel". Atty.
Zamora proceeded to raise the propriety of Judge Malanyaon‘s sitting with and
assisting his daughter in that hearing, being a member of the judiciary, to which
Judge Malanyaon loudly retorted that he be shown any particular rule that
prohibits him from sitting with his daughter at the lawyers‘ bench. He insisted that
he was merely "assisting" her daughter, who "just passed the bar", defend the
respondent, and was likewise helping the latter defend herself.

RULING: Section 35 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court expressly prohibits sitting
judges like Judge Malanyaon from engaging in the private practice of law or giving
professional advice to clients.

Section 11, Canon 4 (Propriety) of the New Code of Judicial Conduct and Rule
5.07of the Code of Judicial Conduct reiterates the prohibition from engaging in the
private practice of law or giving professional advice to clients. The prohibition is
based on sound reasons of public policy, considering that the rights, duties,
privileges and functions of the office of an attorney are inherently incompatible with
the high official functions, duties, powers, discretion and privileges of a sitting
judge. It also aims to ensure that judges give their full time and attention to their
judicial duties, prevent them from extending favors to their own private interests,
and assure the public of their impartiality in the performance of their functions.
These objectives are dictated by a sense of moral decency and desire to promote the
public interest.

Thus, an attorney who accepts an appointment to the Bench must accept that his
right to practice law as a member of the Philippine Bar is thereby suspended, and it
shall continue to be so suspended for the entire period of his incumbency as a judge.
The term practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases in court or to
participation in court proceedings, but extends to the preparation of pleadings or
papers in anticipation of a litigation, the giving of legal advice to clients or persons
needing the same, the preparation of legal instruments and contracts by which legal
rights are secured, and the preparation of papers incident to actions and special
proceedings.
18

Any propensity on the part of a magistrate to ignore the ethical injunction to


conduct himself in a manner that would give no ground for reproach is always
worthy of condemnation. Court should abhor any impropriety on the part of judges,
whether committed in or out of their courthouses, for they are not judges only
occasionally.

The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free of a
whiff of impropriety not only with respect to his performance of his judicial duties,
but also to his behaviour outside his sala and as a private individual. There is no
dichotomy of morality; a public official is also judged by his private morals. The
Code dictates that a judge, in order to promote public confidence in the integrity
and impartiality of the judiciary, must behave with propriety at all times. As we
have very recently explained, a judge‘s official life cannot simply be detached or
separated from his personal existence.
19

CASE: OCA v. Judge Necessario (The marriage package case and the undercover
lawyers)

FACTS: OCA reported alleged irregularities in the solemnization of marriages in


several branches of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) and Regional Trial
Court (RTC) in Cebu City. Certain package fees were offered to interested parties
by "fixers" or "facilitators" for instant marriages. A female and male lawyer of the
audit team went undercover as a couple looking to get married. They went to the
Palace of Justice and were directed by the guard on duty to go to Branch 4 and look
for a certain "Meloy". The male lawyer feared that he would be recognized by other
court personnel, specifically the Clerk of Court of Branch 4 who was a former law
school classmate. The two lawyers then agreed that only the female lawyer would
go inside and inquire about the marriage application process. Inside Branch 4, a
woman named Helen approached and assisted the female lawyer. When the female
lawyer asked if the marriage process could be rushed, Helen assured the lawyer
that the marriage could be solemnized the next day, but the marriage certificate
would only be dated the day the marriage license becomes available. Helen also
guaranteed the regularity of the process for a fee of three thousand pesos (₱3,000)
only.

OCA recommended the dismissal of the respondent judges and some court
employees, and the suspension or admonition of others.

ISSUE: whether the judges and personnel of the MTCC and RTC in Cebu City are
guilty of gross ignorance of the law, gross neglect of duty or gross inefficiency and
gross misconduct, and in turn, warrant the most severe penalty of dismissal from
service.

RULING: Court officials and employees are placed with a heavy burden and
responsibility of keeping the faith of the public. Citing Obañana, Jr. v. Ricafort: Any
impression of impropriety, misdeed or negligence in the performance of official
functions must be avoided. This Court shall not countenance any conduct, act or
omission on the part of all those involved in the administration of justice which
would violate the norm of public accountability and diminish the faith of the people
in the Judiciary.

The OCA described accurately the Palace of Justice in Cebu City as a hub of swift
marriages. The respondent judges and court personnel disregarded laws and
procedure to the prejudice of the parties and the proper administration of justice.

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondents:


20

1. Judge Anatalio S. Necessario, Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court in Cities,


Branch 2, Cebu City, GUILTY of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty and of gross
ignorance of the law and that he be DISMISSED FROM THE SERVICE with
forfeiture of his retirement benefits, except leave credits, if any, and that he be
disqualified from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including
government-owned or -controlled corporation;

2. Judge Gil R. Acosta, Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 3,
Cebu City, GUILTY of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty and of gross ignorance of
the law and that he be DISMISSED FROM THE SERVICE with forfeiture of his
retirement benefits, except leave credits, if any, and that he be disqualified from
reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned or -
controlled corporation;

3. Judge Rosabella M. Tormis, Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court in Cities,


Branch 4, Cebu City, GUILTY of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty and of gross
ignorance of the law and that she would have been DISMISSED FROM THE
SERVICE with forfeiture of her retirement benefits, except leave credits, if any, and
disqualified from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including
government-owned or -controlled corporation, had she not been previously
dismissed from service in A.M. No. MTJ-12-1817 (Formerly A.M. No. 09-2-30-
MTCC);

4. Judge Edgemelo C. Rosales, Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court in Cities,


Branch 8, Cebu City, GUILTY of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty and of gross
ignorance of the law and that he be DISMISSED FROM THE SERVICE with
forfeiture of his retirement benefits, except leave credits, if any, and that he be
disqualified from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including
government-owned or -controlled corporation;

5. Helen Mongaya, Court Interpreter, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 4,


Cebu City, GUILTY of violating Section 2, Canon I of the Code of Conduct for Court
Personnel and that she be DISMISSED FROM THE SERVICE with forfeiture of
her retirement benefits, except leave credits, if any, and that she be disqualified
from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-
owned or -controlled corporation;

6. Rhona F. Rodriguez, Administrative Officer I, Office of the Clerk of Court,


Regional Trial Court, Cebu City, GUILTY of gross misconduct for Section 2, Canon I
of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel and for inducing Maricel Albater to
falsify the application for marriage and that she be DISMISSED FROM THE
21

SERVICE with forfeiture of her retirement benefits, except leave credits, if any, and
that she be disqualified from reinstatement or appointment to any public office,
including government-owned or -controlled corporation;

7. Desiderio S. Aranas, Process Server, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 3,


Cebu City, GUILTY of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and
that he be SUSPENDED without pay for a period of six (6) months with a warning
that a similar offense shall be dealt with more severely;

8. Rebecca Alesna, Court Interpreter, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 1,


Cebu City, GUILTY of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and of
violating Section 2(b), Canon III of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel and
that she be SUSPENDED without pay for a period of six (6) months with a warning
that a similar offense shall be dealt with more severely;

9. Celeste Retuya, Clerk III, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 6, Cebu City,
and Emma Valencia, Stenographer III, Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, Cebu City,
GUILTY of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and of violating
Section 2(b), Canon III of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel and that they be
ADMONISHED with a warning that a similar offense shall be dealt with more
severely;

The complaints against Judge Geraldine Faith A. Econg, Presiding Judge, Regional
Trial Court, Branch 9, Cebu City; Corazon P. Retuya, Court Stenographer,
Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 6, Cebu City; and Marilou Cabañez, Court
Stenographer, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, are DISMISSED for lack of merit.

The case against Judge Rosabella M. Tormis, including the sworn statements of
Celerina Plaza and Crisanto dela Cerna, should be REFERRED to the Office of the
Bar Confidant for the purpose of initiating disbarment proceedings against the
judge.

The Honorable Mayors of Barili, Cebu and Liloan, Cebu, are to be furnished copies
of the Supplemental Report dated 14 August 2007 and are ADVISED to conduct an
investigation with respect to the statements of Filomena C. Lopez, Civil Registrar of
Barili, Cebu, and Bonita I. Pilones, Civil Registrar of Liloan, Cebu, regarding the
processing of marriage licenses and to take the necessary action as the findings of
the investigation may warrant.
22

CASE: Anonymous v. Achas (The Sabongero/Babaero)

SC: Judge Rio Concepcion Achas is REPRlMANDED and FINED in the amount of
FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (₱5,000.00), ADMONISHED not to socially mingle with
cockfighting enthusiasts and bettors, and STERNLY WARNED

FACTS: The letter calls on the Court to look into the morality of respondent Judge
Achas and alleges that: (1) it is of public knowledge in the city that Judge Achas is
living scandalously with a woman who is not his wife; (2) he lives beyond his means;
(3) he is involved with illegal activities through his connection with bad elements,
the kuratongs; ( 4) he comes to court very untidy and dirty; (5) he decides his cases
unfairly in exchange for material and monetary consideration; and (6) he is involved
with cockfighting/gambling.

OCA recommended that Judge Achas be reprimanded as to the charge of


immorality. It was further recommended that he be ordered to refrain from going to
cockpits or avoid such places altogether, with a warning that the same or similar
complaint in the future shall be dealt with more severely. The other charges were
recommended to be dismissed for lack of merit.

RULING: Under Section 1 of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, anonymous complaints
may be filed against judges, but they must be supported by public records of
indubitable integrity. Courts have acted in such instances needing no corroboration
by evidence to be offered by the complainant. Thus, for anonymous complaints, the
burden of proof in administrative proceedings which usually rests with the
complainant, must be buttressed by indubitable public records and by what is
sufficiently proven during the investigation. If the burden of proof is not overcome,
the respondent is under no obligation to prove his defense.

In the present case, no evidence was attached to the letter-complaint. The


complainant never appeared, and no public records were brought forth during the
investigation. Respondent Judge Achas denied all the charges made against him,
only admitting that he was separated de facto from his wife and that he reared
fighting cocks.

The New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary pertinently provides:

CANON 2
INTEGRITY

Integrity is essential not only to the proper discharge of the judicial office but also to
the personal demeanor of judges.
23

SEC. 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but that
it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer.

SEC. 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the people‘s faith in the
integrity of the judiciary. Justice must not merely be done but must also be seen to
be done.

xxx xxx xxx

CANON 4
PROPRIETY

Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all the
activities of a judge.

SEC. 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of
their activities.

SEC. 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must accept personal


restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should
do so freely and willingly. In particular, judges shall conduct themselves in a way
that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.

For going out in public with a woman not his wife, Judge Achas has clearly failed to
abide by the above-cited Canons of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for Philippine
Judiciary.

No position demands greater moral righteousness and uprightness from its


occupant than does the judicial office. Judges in particular must be individuals of
competence, honesty and probity, charged as they are with safeguarding the
integrity of the court and its proceedings. He should behave at all times so as to
promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and
avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities. His
personal behaviour outside the court, and not only while in the performance of his
official duties, must be beyond reproach, for he is perceived to be the personification
of law and justice. Thus, any demeaning act of a judge degrades the institution he
represents.

CASE: In the matter of the charges of Plagiarism against Associate Justice Mariano
C Del Castillo

SC: Charges of plagiarism is DISMISSED; DIRECTS the Public Information Office


to send copies of this decision to Professors Evan J. Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent,
24

Dr. Mark Ellis, and Professor Christian J. Tams at their known addresses;
DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to provide all court attorneys involved in legal
research and reporting with copies of this decision and to enjoin them to avoid
editing errors committed in the Vinuya case while using the existing computer
program especially when the volume of citations and footnoting is substantial; and
finally, DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to acquire the necessary software for use by
the Court that can prevent future lapses in citations and attributions.

Further, the Court DIRECTS the Committee on Ethics and Ethical Standards to
turn over to the en banc the dummy as well as the signed copy of petitioners Exhibit
J, entitled Restoring Integrity, a statement by the Faculty of the University of the
Philippines College of Law for the en bancs consideration in relation to the separate
pending matter concerning that supposed Faculty statement.

FACTS: Petitioners Isabelita C. Vinuya and about 70 other elderly women, all
members of the Malaya Lolas Organization, filed with the Court special civil action
of certiorari with application for preliminary mandatory injunction against the
Executive Secretary, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary of Justice, and
the Office of the Solicitor General. Petitioners claimed that in destroying villages in
the Philippines during World War II, the Japanese army systematically raped them
and a number of other women, seizing them and holding them in houses or cells
where soldiers repeatedly ravished and abused them.

Petitioners alleged that they have since 1998 been approaching the Executive
Department, represented by the respondent public officials, requesting assistance in
filing claims against the Japanese military officers who established the comfort
women stations. But that Department declined, saying that petitioners, individual
claims had already been fully satisfied under the Peace Treaty between the
Philippines and Japan. Petitioners wanted the Court to render judgment,
compelling the Executive Department to espouse their claims for official apology
and other forms of reparations against Japan before the International Court of
Justice and other international tribunals. On April 28, 2010, the Court rendered
judgment dismissing petitioners action. Justice Mariano C. del Castillo wrote the
decision for the Court. The Court essentially gave two reasons for its decision: it
cannot grant the petition because, first, the Executive Department has the exclusive
prerogative under the Constitution and the law to determine whether to espouse
petitioners claim against Japan; and, second, the Philippines is not under any
obligation in international law to espouse their claims.
25

More than a month later on July 18, 2010, counsel for petitioners, Atty. Herminio
Harry Roque, Jr., announced in his online blog that his clients would file a
supplemental petition detailing plagiarism committed by the court under
the second reason it gave for dismissing the petition and that these stolen passages
were also twisted to support the courts erroneous conclusions that the Filipino
comfort women of World War Two have no further legal remedies. The media gave
publicity to Atty. Roques announcement.

It accused Justice Del Castillo of manifest intellectual theft and outright plagiarism
when he wrote the decision for the Court and of twisting the true intents of the
plagiarized sources to suit the arguments of the assailed Judgment. They charged
Justice Del Castillo of copying without acknowledgement certain passages from
three foreign articles:

a. A Fiduciary Theory of Jus Cogens by Evan J. Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent,


Yale Journal of International Law (2009);

b. Breaking the Silence: Rape as an International Crime by Mark Ellis, Case


Western Reserve Journal of International Law (2006); and

c. Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations by Christian J. Tams, Cambridge University


Press (2005).

ISSUES: Whether or not, in writing the opinion for the Court in the Vinuya case,
Justice Del Castillo plagiarized the published works of authors Tams, Criddle-
Descent, and Ellis.

Whether or not Justice Del Castillo twisted the works of these authors to make it
appear that such works supported the Courts position in the Vinuya decision.

RULING: On occasions judges and justices have mistakenly cited the wrong
sources, failed to use quotation marks, inadvertently omitted necessary information
from footnotes or endnotes. But these do not, in every case, amount to misconduct.
Only errors that are tainted with fraud, corruption, or malice are subject of
disciplinary action. This is not the case here. Justice Del Castillos acts or omissions
were not shown to have been impelled by any of such disreputable motives . If the
rule were otherwise, no judge or justice, however competent, honest, or dedicated he
may be, can ever hope to retire from the judiciary with an unblemished record.
26

Finally, petitioners assert that, even if they were to concede that the omission was
the result of plain error, Justice Del Castillo is nonetheless guilty of gross
inexcusable negligence. They point out that he has full control and supervision over
his researcher and should not have surrendered the writing of the decision to the
latter. But this assumes that Justice Del Castillo abdicated the writing of
the Vinuya decision to his researcher, which is contrary to the evidence adduced
during the hearing.

Assigning cases for study and research to a court attorney, the equivalent of a law
clerk in the United States Supreme Court, is standard practice in the high courts of
all nations. This is dictated by necessity. With about 80 to 100 cases assigned to a
Justice in our Court each month, it would be truly senseless for him to do all the
studies and research, going to the library, searching the internet, checking
footnotes, and watching the punctuations. If he does all these by himself, he would
have to allocate at least one to two weeks of work for each case that has been
submitted for decision. The wheels of justice in the Supreme Court will grind to a
halt under such a proposition.

What is important is that, in this case, Justice Del Castillo retained control over the
writing of the decision in the Vinuya case without, however, having to look over his
researchers shoulder as she cleaned up her draft report to ensure that she hit the
right computer keys. The Justices researcher was after all competent in the field of
assignment given her. She finished law from a leading law school, graduated third
in her class, served as Editor-in Chief of her schools Law Journal, and placed fourth
in the bar examinations when she took it. She earned a masters degree in
International Law and Human Rights from a prestigious university in the United
States under the Global-Hauser program, which counsel for petitioners concedes to
be one of the top post graduate programs on International Law in the world. Justice
Del Castillo did not exercise bad judgment in assigning the research work in
the Vinuya case to her.
27

CASE: RE: LETTER OF THE UP LAW FACULTY ENTITLED "RESTORING


INTEGRITY: A STATEMENT BY THE FACULTY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE
PHILIPPINES COLLEGE OF LAW ON THE ALLEGATIONS OF PLAGIARISM
AND MISREPRESENTATION IN THE SUPREME COURT

(Related to sa Del Castillo Plagiarism pero yung petition nila was considered a mere
dummy)

The provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility involved in this case are as
follows:

CANON 1 — A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and
promote respect for law and legal processes.

RULE 1.02 - A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the
law or at lessening confidence in the legal system.

CANON 10 - A lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court.

Rule 10.01 - A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in
court; nor shall he mislead, or allow the Court to be misled by any artifice.

Rule 10.02 - A lawyer shall not knowingly misquote or misrepresent the contents of
paper, the language or the argument of opposing counsel, or the text of a decision or
authority, or knowingly cite as law a provision already rendered inoperative by
repeal or amendment, or assert as a fact that which has not been proved.

Rule 10.03 - A lawyer shall observe the rules of procedure and shall not misuse
them to defeat the ends of justice.

CANON 11 — A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts
and to judicial officers and should insist on similar conduct by others.

RULE 11.05 A lawyer shall submit grievances against a Judge to the proper
authorities only.

CANON 13 — A lawyer shall rely upon the merits of his cause and refrain from any
impropriety which tends to influence, or gives the appearance of influencing the
court.

FACTS: On August 9, 2010, a statement dated July 27, 2010, entitled "Restoring
Integrity: A Statement by the Faculty of the University of the Philippines College of
Law on the Allegations of Plagiarism and Misrepresentation in the Supreme Court"
28

(the Statement), was posted in Newsbreak‘s website. On August 11, 2010, Dean
Leonen submitted a copy of the Statement of the University of the Philippines
College of Law Faculty (UP Law faculty) to the Court, through Chief Justice Renato
C. Corona (Chief Justice Corona).

RULING:

The Show Cause Resolution does not deny respondents their freedom of expression.

While most agree that the right to criticize the judiciary is critical to maintaining a
free and democratic society, there is also a general consensus that healthy criticism
only goes so far. Many types of criticism leveled at the judiciary cross the line to
become harmful and irresponsible attacks. These potentially devastating attacks
and unjust criticism can threaten the independence of the judiciary. The court must
"insist on being permitted to proceed to the disposition of its business in an orderly
manner, free from outside interference obstructive of its functions and tending to
embarrass the administration of justice."

While a lawyer is entitled to present his case with vigor and courage, such
enthusiasm does not justify the use of offensive and abusive language. Language
abounds with countless possibilities for one to be emphatic but respectful,
convincing but not derogatory, illuminating but not offensive.

On many occasions, the Court has reminded members of the Bar to abstain from all
offensive personalityand to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of
a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which he is
charged. In keeping with the dignity of the legal profession, a lawyer‘s language
even in his pleadings must be dignified.

The Show Cause Resolution does not interfere with respondents‘ academic freedom.

The implicit ruling in the jurisprudence discussed above is that the constitutional
right to freedom of expression of members of the Bar may be circumscribed by their
ethical duties as lawyers to give due respect to the courts and to uphold the public‘s
faith in the legal profession and the justice system. To our mind, the reason that
freedom of expression may be so delimited in the case of lawyers applies with
greater force to the academic freedom of law professors.

Even if the Court was willing to accept respondents‘ proposition in the Common
Compliance that their issuance of the Statement was in keeping with their duty to
"participate in the development of the legal system by initiating or supporting
efforts in law reform and in the improvement of the administration of justice" under
29

Canon 4 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, we cannot agree that they have
fulfilled that same duty in keeping with the demands of Canons 1, 11 and 13 to give
due respect to legal processes and the courts, and to avoid conduct that tends to
influence the courts. Members of the Bar cannot be selective regarding which
canons to abide by given particular situations. With more reason that law
professors are not allowed this indulgence, since they are expected to provide their
students exemplars of the Code of Professional Responsibility as a whole and not
just their preferred portions thereof.

The Court has already clarified that it is not the expression of respondents‘ staunch
belief that Justice Del Castillo has committed a misconduct that the majority of this
Court has found so unbecoming in the Show Cause Resolution. No matter how firm
a lawyer‘s conviction in the righteousness of his cause there is simply no excuse for
denigrating the courts and engaging in public behavior that tends to put the courts
and the legal profession into disrepute. This doctrine, which we have repeatedly
upheld in such cases as Salcedo, In re Almacen and Saberong, should be applied in
this case with more reason, as the respondents, not parties to the Vinuya case,
denounced the Court and urged it to change its decision therein, in a public
statement using contumacious language, which with temerity they subsequently
submitted to the Court for "proper disposition."

CASE: Habawel v. CTA

SC: DISMISSED. The assailed resolution was uphold but imprisonment was
deleted.

FACTS: Found guilty of direct contempt by the First Division of the Court of Tax
Appeals (CTA First Division), and sanctioned with imprisonment for a period of ten
days and a fine of P2,000.00, the petitioners have come to the Court for relief
through certiorari, claiming that the CTA First Divisions finding and sentence were
made in grave abuse of its discretion because the language they used in their
motion for reconsideration as the attorneys for a party was contumacious. (Court
finds Attorneys Denis B. Habawel and Alexis F. Medina of the Ponce Enrile Reyes
and Manalastas Law Offices guilty of DIRECT CONTEMPT. Each counsel is)

RULING: We dismiss the petition for certiorari, and declare that the CTA First
Division did not abuse its discretion, least of all gravely, in finding that the
petitioners committed direct contempt of court.
30

Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility mandates all attorneys to


observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers and to
insist on similar conduct by others. Rule 11.03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility specifically enjoins all attorneys thus:

Rule 11.03. A lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language
or behavior before the Courts.

It is conceded that an attorney or any other person may be critical of the courts and
their judges provided the criticism is made in respectful terms and through
legitimate channels.

In re: Almacen: ―xxx every citizen has the right to comment upon and criticize the
actuations of public officers. This right is not diminished by the fact that the
criticism is aimed at a judicial authority, or that it is articulated by a lawyer. Such
right is especially recognized where the criticism concerns a concluded litigation,
because then the courts actuation are thrown open to public consumption.

xxx

Courts and judges are not sacrosanct. They should and expect critical evaluation of
their performance. For like the executive and the legislative branches, the judiciary
is rooted in the soil of democratic society, nourished by the periodic appraisal of the
citizens whom it is expected to serve.

Well-recognized therefore is the right of a lawyer, both as an officer of the court and
as a citizen, to criticize in properly respectful terms and through legitimate
channels the acts of courts and judges.xxx

xxx

Hence, as a citizen and as officer of the court, a lawyer is expected not only to
exercise the right, but also to consider it his duty to avail of such right. No law may
abridge this right. Nor is he professionally answerable for a scrutiny into the official
conduct of the judges, which would not expose him to legal animadversion as a
citizen. xxx

xxx

But it is the cardinal condition of all such criticism that it shall be bona fide, and
shall not spill over the walls of decency and propriety. A wide chasm exists between
fair criticism, on the one hand, and abuse and slander of courts and the judges
thereof, on the other. Intemperate and unfair criticism is a gross violation of the
31

duty of respect to courts. It is such a misconduct that subjects a lawyer to


disciplinary action. (emphasis supplied)

The test for criticizing a judges decision is, therefore, whether or not the criticism
is bona fide or done in good faith, and does not spill over the walls of decency and
propriety.

By such statements, the petitioners clearly and definitely overstepped the bounds of
propriety as attorneys, and disregarded their sworn duty to respect the courts. An
imputation in a pleading of gross ignorance against a court or its judge, especially in
the absence of any evidence, is a serious allegation and constitutes direct contempt
of court. It is settled that derogatory, offensive or malicious statements contained in
pleadings or written submissions presented to the same court or judge, in which,
the proceedings are pending are treated as direct contempt because they
are equivalent to a misbehaviour committed in the presence of or so near a court or
judge as to interrupt the administration of justice. This is true, even if
the derogatory, offensive or malicious statements are not read in open court.

We do not hesitate to punish the petitioners for the direct contempt of court. They
threw out self-restraint and courtesy, traits that in the most trying occasions equate
to rare virtues that all members of the Legal Profession should possess and cherish.
They shunted aside the nobility of their profession. They wittingly banished the
ideal that even the highest degree of zealousness in defending the causes of clients
did not permit them to cross the line between liberty and license.
32

CASE: Tormis v. Paredes

SC: ADMONISHED for INSENSITIVE REMARKS

FACTS: During class discussion, Judge Paredes, professor in Southwestern


University College of Law in Cebu, named his former student‘s mother, Jill Tormis‘
mother, Rosabella Tormis, as one of the judges involved in the marriage scams in
Cebu City. Judge P also mentioned in her class that Judge Tormis was abusive of
her position as judge, corrupt, and ignorant of the law; and included her brother,
Francis Tormis as a ―court-noted drug addict‖. Jill, however claims Judge P
accepted a bail bond for the temporary release of the accused in a criminal case
which Judge P denied.

RULING: Judge Paredes is guilty of conduct of unbecoming a judge. His use of


temperate language during class discussions was inappropriate. His statements in
class, tending to project Judge Tormis as corrupt and ignorant of the law and
procedures, were obviously and clearly insensitive and inexcusable. The New Code
of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary require judges to exemplify
propriety at all times.

Canon 4: PROPRIETY

Section 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all
their activities.

CASE: Andres v. Atty. Nambi

SC: REPRIMANDED respondent Atty. Salimathar V. Nambi for obstinately and


unjustifiably refusing to obey lawful orders of the Court and the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines, with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar act or
offense shall be dealt with more severely.

FACTS: Complaint filed against then Labor Arbiter Salimathar V. Nambi


(respondent) on the ground of gross ignorance of the law in issuing an Amended
Alias Writ of Execution against M.A. Blocks Work, Inc. and its incorporators, the
herein complainants, who are not parties to the case.

RULING: The Court have no basis to hold respondent administratively liable for
gross ignorance of the law. However, we note that respondent had consistently and
obstinately disregarded the Court‘s and IBP‘s orders. It is on record that respondent
totally ignored the Court‘s June 7, 2006 Resolutiondirecting him to file his
33

Comment. He also failed to attend the mandatory conference before the IBP‘s
Commission on Bar Discipline despite notice. Neither did he file his Position
Paper. As a former Labor Arbiter, respondent should know that orders of the court
―are not mere requests but directives which should have been complied with
promptly and completely.‖ ―He disregarded the oath he took when he was accepted
to the legal profession ‗to obey the laws and the legal orders of the duly constituted
legal authorities.‘ x x x His conduct was unbecoming of a lawyer who is called upon
to obey court orders and processes and is expected to stand foremost in complying
with court directives as an officer of the court.‖ Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court provides:

Sec. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefor.


– A member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by
the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such
office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving
moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before
admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior
court, or for corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case
without authority so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of
gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.
(Emphasis supplied)

Considering that this appears to be respondent‘s first infraction, we find it proper to


impose on him the penalty of reprimand with warning that commission of the same
or similar infraction will be dealt with more severely.

CASE: RE: COMPLAINT DATED JANUARY 28, 2014 OF WENEFREDO


PARREÑO, ET AL., AGAINST HON. CELIA C. LIBREA-LEAGOGO, HON. ELIHU
A. YBAÑEZ AND HON. AMY C. LAZARO-JAVIER, ASSOCIATE JUSTICES OF
THE COURT OF APPEALS, RELATIVE TO CA G.R. SP NO. 108807

SC: CHARGES AGAINST 3 JUSTICES DISMISSED

FACTS: Complainants Wenefredo Parreño and Ronnie Cuevas, with Joseph


Denamarca, filed a protest in the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources of the National Capital Region (DENR-NCR) against the issuance of TCT
in favor of Susan Enriquez and Alma Rodriguez covering two lots inside the Signal
Village, Taguig. The DENR-NCR dismissed the protest, but the dismissal was
subsequently reversed by the DENR. Aggrieved, Enriquez and Rodriguez appealed
34

to the Office of the President (OP), which denied their appeal. With their motion for
reconsideration having been similarly denied Enriquez and Rodriguez appealed to
the CA by petition for review, and it is such appeal from which this administrative
complaint arose.

On June 26, 2012, the Special Sixteenth (16th) Division of the CA issued its
resolution submitting C.A.-G.R. SP No. 108807 for decision. However, the
complainants lament that from the issuance of the resolution until the filing of their
complaint on February 8, 2014, the respondents, who comprised the Special
16th Division of the CA, had not rendered the decision, which the complainants
insist was in patent violation of the mandatory period within which the respondents
should decide under Section 15(1), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution.

RULING: The Constitution mandates a lower collegiate court like the CA to resolve
a case within 12 months from the submission of the last required pleading or as set
by the court itself. This is clear from paragraphs (1) and (2), Section 15 of Article
VIII of the Constitution, to wit:

Section 15. (1) All cases or matters filed after the effectivity of this Constitution
must be decided or resolved within twenty-four months from date of submission for
the Supreme Court, and, unless reduced by the Supreme Court, twelve months for
all lower collegiate courts, and three months for all lower courts.

(2) A case or matter shall be deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the
filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum required by the Rules of Court or
by the court itself.

The delay in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 108807 could not be said to have been incurred by
Justice Ybañez with malice or deliberate attempt to impede the dispensation of
justice. He assigned C.A.-G.R. SP No. 108807 to a member of his legal staff, but the
latter had fallen seriously ill in the meantime, forcing him to hire a contractual-
lawyer for the purpose. The latter subsequently joined another agency of the
Government on a permanent basis. Thus, Justice Ybañez could promulgate the
decision only on February 28, 2014. His explanation for the delay, being entirely
plausible, is accepted.
35

CASE: Rivera v. Judge Biancaflor

SC: Judge Jaime C. Blancaflor is found GUILTY of gross misconduct, violation of


the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (R.A. No. 3019) and immorality,
constituting serious violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct under Section 8, Rule
140 of the Rules of Court.

FACTS: Rivera was helping Catuday in a drug case and was trying to secure a
judicia bond. Pero ayaw iapprove ni Judge B for personal reasons.

RULING: While Judge Blancaflor has the discretion to approve or disapprove a


motion to reduce bail, it appears from the records that he abused this prerogative in
the cases of Catuday and Namplata. Through Judge Blancaflor‘s inaccessibility (he
was usually not in the court in the afternoon) and refusal to take action on their
pleas for provisional liberty, Catuday and Namplata and the people working for the
approval of their motions (Rivera and De Mata) suffered inordinate delay and
frustrations in securing the motions‘ approval. In more ways than one, Judge
Blancaflor gave De Mata and Riveraa run-around in Catuday‘s and Namplata‘s
cases for no plausible reason other than the judge‘s strong antipathy towards
Rivera.

This is serious misconduct and a violation of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for
the Philippine Judiciary which mandates that "judges shall perform their judicial
duties without favor, bias or prejudice," and that they "shall ensure that his or her
conduct, both in and out of court, maintains and enhances the confidence of the
public, the legal profession and litigants in the impartiality of the judge and of the
judiciary."

It appears from the records that Judge Blancaflor‘s antipathy towards Rivera arose
from her involvement in the Leron case when she testified against the judge in a
motion for his inhibition from the case. The motion must have caused considerable
anxiety and concern for the judge so that he even exerted efforts to neutralize
Rivera, to the extent of offering cash to Byron (Rivera‘s son) and Ricel (Rivera‘s son-
in-law) who executed a joint Affidavit that Judge Blancaflor and Villamar offered
them ₱10,000.00 each and even warned them not to testify at the hearing on the
motion. The two showed the cash to Rivera and they had the incident entered in the
police blotter.

Re: charge of immorality


36

On the charge of immorality – for allegedly maintaining an illicit relationship with


Villamar who is nothis wife

For maintaining a relationship with Villamar, Judge Blancaflor crossed the line of a
proper and acceptable conduct as a magistrate and a private person.

Gross misconduct, bribery, violation of R.A. No. 3019 and immorality, all of them
constituting violations of the Code of Judicial Conductare serious charges under
Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court punishable under Section 11 of the same
Rule by any of the following: (1) dismissal from the service, forfeiture of the benefits
as the Court may determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or
appointment to any public office, including government-owned or controlled
corporations; forfeiture of benefits shall in no case include accrued leave credits; (2)
suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than three (3)
months but not exceeding six (6) months; or (3) a fine of more than ₱20,000.00 but
not exceeding ₱40,000.00.

Considering the gravity of theoffenses committed by Judge Blancaflor, we approve


and adopt the recommendations of Justice Fernando and the OCA for his dismissal
from the service, with the accessory penalties.
37

CASE: Lorenzana v. Ma. Cecilia Austria (Austria-Chua now)

SC: Court finds Judge Ma. Cecilia I. Austria guilty of GROSS IGNORANCE OF
THE LAW for which she is FINED Twenty-One Thousand Pesos (₱21,000,00).
Judge Austria is likewise hereby ADMONISHED to refrain from further acts of
IMPROPRIETY and to refrain from CONDUCT UNBECOMING OF A JUDGE,
with the STERN WARNING

FACTS: Complainant alleged that in the course of SP. Proc. No. 06-7993, the
respondent committed Gross Ignorance of the Law, Grave Abuse of Authority, Gross
Misconduct, Grave Incompetence, Irregularity in the Performance of Duty, Grave
Bias and Partiality, Lack of Circumspection, Conduct Unbecoming of a Judge,
Failure to Observe the Reglementary Period and Violation of the Code of
Professional Responsibility

Complainant likewise alleged that the respondent committed an act of impropriety


when she displayed her photographs in a social networking website called
"Friendster" and posted her personal details as an RTC Judge, allegedly for the
purpose of finding a compatible partner. She also posed with her upper body barely
covered by a shawl, allegedly suggesting that nothing was worn underneath except
probably a brassiere.

RULING:

On the Charges of Grave Abuse of Authority;


Irregularity in the Performance of Duty; Grave
Bias and Partiality; and Lack of Circumspection

The allegations of grave abuse of authority, irregularity in the performance of duty,


grave bias and partiality, and lack of circumspection are devoid of merit because the
complainant failed to establish the respondent‘s bad faith, malice or ill will.

On the Charges of Grave Bias and Partiality = BASELESS

On the Ground of Conduct


Unbecoming of a Judge

On the allegation of conduct unbecoming of a judge, Section 6, Canon 6 of the New


Code of Judicial Conduct states that:

SECTION 6. Judges shall maintain order and decorum in all proceedings before the
court and be patient, dignified and courteous in relation to litigants, witnesses,
lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity. Judges shall
38

require similar conduct of legal representatives, court staff and others subject to
their influence, direction or control.

A judge should always conduct himself in a manner that would preserve the dignity,
independence and respect for himself/herself, the Court and the Judiciary as a
whole. He must exhibit the hallmark judicial temperament of utmost sobriety and
self-restraint. He should choose his words and exercise more caution and control in
expressing himself. In other words, a judge should possess the virtue of gravitas.

Section 1, Canon 2 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct states that:

SECTION 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but
that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer.

In these lights, the respondent exhibited conduct unbecoming of a judge and thus
violated Section 6, Canon 6 and Section 1, Canon 2 of the New Code of Judicial
Conduct.

On the Ground of Impropriety

We are not unaware of the increasing prevalence of social networking sites in the
Internet – a new medium through which more and more Filipinos communicate
with each other.

While judges are not prohibited from becoming members of and from taking part in
social networking activities, we remind them that they do not thereby shed off their
status as judges. They carry with them in cyberspace the same ethical
responsibilities and duties that every judge is expected to follow in his/her everyday
activities. It is in this light that we judge the respondent in the charge of
impropriety when she posted her pictures in a manner viewable by the public.

Lest this rule be misunderstood, the New Code of Judicial Conduct does not prohibit
a judge from joining or maintaining an account in a social networking site such as
Friendster. Section 6, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct recognizes that
judges, like any other citizen, are entitled to freedom of expression. This right
"includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and impart information
and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers."

Joining a social networking site is an exercise of one‘s freedom of expression. The


respondent judge‘s act of joining Friendster is, therefore, per se not violative of the
New Code of Judicial Conduct.
39

Section 6, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, however, also imposes a
correlative restriction on judges: in the exercise of their freedom of expression, they
should always conduct themselves in a manner that preserves the dignity of the
judicial office and the impartiality and independence of the Judiciary.

This rule reflects the general principle of propriety expected of judges in all of their
activities, whether it be in the course of their judicial office or in their personal
lives. In particular, Sections 1 and 2 of Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct
prohibit impropriety and even the appearance of impropriety in all of their
activities:

SECTION 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in


all of their activities.

SECTION 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must accept personal


restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should
do so freely and willingly. In particular, judges shall conduct themselves in a way
that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.

Based on this provision, we hold that the respondent disregarded the propriety and
appearance of propriety required of her when she posted Friendster photos of
herself wearing an "off-shouldered" suggestive dress and made this available for
public viewing.

To restate the rule: in communicating and socializing through social networks,


judges must bear in mind that what they communicate – regardless of whether it is
a personal matter or part of his or her judicial duties – creates and contributes to
the people‘s opinion not just of the judge but of the entire Judiciary of which he or
she is a part. This is especially true when the posts the judge makes are viewable
not only by his or her family and close friends, but by acquaintances and the
general public.

Thus, it may be acceptable for the respondent to show a picture of herself in the
attire she wore to her family and close friends, but when she made this picture
available for public consumption, she placed herself in a situation where she, and
the status she holds as a judge, may be the object of the public‘s criticism and
ridicule. The nature of cyber communications, particularly its speedy and wide-scale
character, renders this rule necessary.

We are not also unaware that the respondent‘s act of posting her photos would seem
harmless and inoffensive had this act been done by an ordinary member of the
40

public. As the visible personification of law and justice, however, judges are held to
higher standards of conduct and thus must accordingly comport themselves.

This exacting standard applies both to acts involving the judicial office and personal
matters.1âwphi1 The very nature of their functions requires behavior under
exacting standards of morality, decency and propriety; both in the performance of
their duties and their daily personal lives, they should be beyond reproach. Judges
necessarily accept this standard of conduct when they take their oath of office as
magistrates.

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