Opinion ( Leaderboard Top ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Improper conduct

This is an administrative complaint filed against a Judge (Judge JM) by his own wife (Gina) for immorality and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service because of his alleged illicit and immoral relationship with a certain 20-year-old single woman (Lani) and of using court personnel as contact person and escort of her paramour as well as failing to hold court sessions because of his extended date with his paramour.

Complainant attached to her complaint, affidavits of nine witnesses but five of them recanted their affidavits. The hearing of the complaint was set for more than ten times but was postponed because the parties were supposedly exerting all efforts for a possible reconciliation. On March 11, 2002, the hearing was again postponed after the parties informed the Investigating Justice of the last ditch effort to settle. But since no settlement was reached, the hearing proceeded the following day, March 12, 2002.

From a list of seven witnesses, Gina manifested that only four would testify. The first witness (Rudy) testified that he saw Judge JM and Lani enter a house in the afternoon of October 17, 1999 after being hired by Gina’s son to tail Judge JM; and that both dined and spent the night there together inside one bedroom. He said he accompanied Gina and her son the next day and he saw Gina pull Lani outside the house creating a commotion within the neighborhood. On cross examination, Rudy admitted that he was not sure if Lani spent the night in the house or whether she left that night and returned the following morning; and that the spot where he positioned himself while observing Judge JM was blocked by leaves and tall trees.

The next witness (Tony) testified that he was hired by Lani to drive a motorcycle that was given by Judge JM to run errands for both her and Judge JM. He said he saw Judge JM visit Lani on 3 occasions and that he was once slapped by the Judge for allegedly peeping at Lani. On cross examination, Tony admitted that he was not sure if the motorcycle was actually owned by Lani and that he just presumed it. He also admitted that he had been residing with Gina’s counsel since the day he executed the affidavit.

The third witness (Dencio) was not presented because the intended testimony would cover an event that took place after the filing of the complaint and did not cover the matters alleged therein. Gina manifested her intention to amend the same so Dencio can testify. Nevertheless the Investigator required her to testify first in the direct examination without prejudice to Dencio testifying later on. Gina however refused to proceed with her direct testimony and insisted that she would testify only after Dencio had testified. Despite the Investigator’s warning that refusal might be considered as a waiver of her right to present further witnesses, Gina refused. So the Investigator ordered her to rest her case but she again refused.

 Judge JM himself testified in his defense. He denied the allegations of both Rudy and Tony. He said that Gina also filed a complaint for concubinage against him but the same was dismissed by the Prosecutor for lack of sufficient evidence. He believed that Gina’s accusations were brought about by her psychiatric condition characterized as severe paranoia. Do the acts complained of warrant the imposition of disciplinary sanction against Judge JM?

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Yes. But not for the acts complained of. While the previous rulings require complainant to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt even if the case involves an administrative and not a criminal complaint against a Judge (In re Horrilleno, 43 Phil 212; Alcuizar vs. Carpio AM RTJ 07-2068, August 7, 2007, 529 SCRA 216), recent rulings applied substantial evidence as the normative quantum of proof necessary in resolving administrative complaints against judges. Members of the judiciary are not a class of their own in the field of public service as to require a higher degree of proof for administrative cases filed against them (Gutierrez vs. Belen, 555 SCRA, 424).

However in this case, Gina was not able to prove by substantial evidence that Judge JM committed the acts complained of. If a judge is to be disciplined for a grave offense like immorality which is punishable by dismissal, the evidence against him must be competent and derived from direct knowledge. The testimonies of Rudy and Tony are specious and insufficient to convincingly prove that Judge JM committed disreputable conduct. Gina should not have refused to testify. More than anyone else she has direct interest in making sure that the evidence adduced met the necessary burden of proof. She should have been more zealous in prosecuting her complaint.

Nevertheless although the charges against Judge JM were not satisfactorily proven he cannot be completely exonerated. Rudy’s testimony that he saw him having dinner with Lani and entering a bedroom with her, may not satisfactorily prove the charge of immorality, but the act certainly suggested the appearance of impropriety, he being a married man. Such behavior undeniably constituted unbecoming conduct, a light offense punishable by a fine. So Judge JM should be fined P10,000 (Macias vs. Macias, A.M. RTJ-01-1650, September 29, 2009. 601 SCRA 203)

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E-mail at:jcson@pldtdsl.net

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
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