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Mark Joseph M.

Carrido
Cases regarding Canon 4, CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT FOR THE
PHILIPPINE JUDICIARY
Applicable Canon and Rule:
SEC. 1 of Canon 4, CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT FOR THE
PHILIPPINE JUDICIARY

Title: Michael Belen v. Judge Medel Belen, A.M. No. RTJ-08-2139,


August 9, 2010
Ponente: Justice Carpio
Facts
Complainant Michael B. Belen filed a Verified Complaint with the Office of the
Court Administrator (OCA) of the Supreme Court, charging Judge Medel
Arnaldo B. Belen with grave abuse of authority and conduct unbecoming a
judge. The OCA submitted its Report finding respondent judge guilty of
violating Section 4, Canon 1 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the
Philippine Judiciary. The OCA stated that while respondent judge did not
actually use the courts official letterhead but his own personal stationery, his
letters indicated that he is the presiding judge of an RTC in Calamba City,
and even stated that his letters were from the chambers of the presiding
judge. Investigating Justice Ramon R. Garcia found respondent judge to have
violated Section 4 of Canon 1 and Section 1 of Canon 4 of the New Code of
Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary when he used a letterhead
indicating his position as the Presiding Judge of the RTC of Calamba City,
Branch 36.
Issue: Is the judge guilty of Section 1, Canon 4.
Held:

Yes.
In writing these letters, respondent judges use of his personal stationery with
letterhead indicating that he is the Presiding Judge of RTC of Calamba City,
Branch 36, and stating that the letter was from [his] chambers, clearly
manifests that respondent judge was trying to use the prestige of his office
to influence said government officials and employees, and to achieve with
prompt and ease the purpose for which those letters were written. In other
words, respondent judge used said letterhead to promote his personal
interest. This is violative of Section 4 of Canon 1 and Section 1 of Canon 4 of
the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary. We quote these
sections below:
CANON 1
INDEPENDENCE
SECTION. 4. Judges shall not allow family, social, or other
relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. The
prestige of judicial office shall not be used or lent to advance the
private interests of others, nor convey or permit others to convey
the impression that they are in a special position to influence the
judge.
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.
In view of the foregoing, we find respondent judge guilty of violation
of Section 4 of Canon 1 and Section 1 of Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial
Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary.

Applicable Canon and Rule:


SEC. 1 of Canon 4, CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT FOR THE
PHILIPPINE JUDICIARY

Title: JILL M. TORMIS v JUDGE MEINRADO P. PAREDES, A.M. No. RTJ13-2366, February 4, 2015

Ponente: Justice Mendoza


Facts
Jill charged Judge Paredes with grave misconduct. Jill was a student of Judge
Paredes in Political Law Review during the first semester of school year 20102011 at the Southwestern University, Cebu City. She averred that sometime
in August 2010, in his class discussions, Judge Paredes named her mother,
Judge Rosabella Tormis (Judge Tormis),then Presiding Judge of Branch 4,
Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC),Cebu City, as one of the judges involved
in the marriage scams in Cebu City. Judge Paredes also mentioned in his
class that Judge Tormis was abusive of her position as a judge, corrupt, and
ignorant of the law.
Jill added that Judge Paredes included Judge Tormis in his discussions not only
once but several times. In one session, Judge Paredes was even said to have
included in his discussion Francis Mondragon Tormis (Francis),son of Judge
Tormis, stating that he was a "court-noted addict."4 She was absent from
class at that time, but one of her classmates who was present, Rhoda L.
Litang (Rhoda), informed her about the inclusion of her brother. To avoid

humiliation in school, Jill decided to drop the class under Judge Paredes and
transfer to another law school in Tacloban City.
Jill, however, claimed that Judge Paredes committed an offense worse than
that committed by her mother. She averred that on March 13, 2011, Judge
Paredes accepted a cash bail bond in the amount of Six Thousand Pesos
(P6,000.00) for the temporary release of one Lita Guioguio in a case entitled,
"People of the Philippines v. Lita Guioguio,"docketed as Criminal Case No.
148434-R,6 then pending before Branch 8, MTCC, Cebu City (Guioguio case).
Jill claimed that the intention to humiliate her family was evident when Judge
Paredes branded her brother, Francis, as a "drug addict."
In her memorandum, Jill contended that Judge Paredes act of discussing
Judge Tormis cases in class where she was present was an open display of
insensitivity, impropriety and lack of delicadeza bordering on oppressive and
abusive conduct, which fell short of the exacting standards of behavior
demanded of magistrates. She asserted that the defense of Judge Paredes
that he could not be made administratively liable as the act was not made in
the performance of his official duties did not hold water because a judge
should be the embodiment of what was just and fair not only in the
performance of his official duties but also in his everyday life.
Issue: Is Judge Paredes Guilty of Section 1, Canon 4.
Held:
Yes.
The Court adopts the findings and recommendations of Justice Diy except as
to the penalty.
Misconduct is defined as a transgression of some established and definite
rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by a
public officer. The misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional
elements of corruption, willful intent to violate the law, or to disregard
established rules, which must be established by substantial evidence. As
distinguished from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear
intent to violate the law, or flagrant disregard of established rule, must be
manifest in a charge of grave misconduct. Corruption, as an element of
grave misconduct, consists in the act of an official or fiduciary person who

unlawfully and wrongfully uses his station or character to procure some


benefit for himself or for another person, contrary to duty and the rights of
others.19
To constitute misconduct, the act or acts must have a direct relation to and
be connected with the performance of his official duties.20 Considering that
the acts complained of, the remarks against Judge Tormis and Francis, were
made by Judge Paredes in his class discussions, they cannot be considered
as "misconduct." They are simply not related to the discharge of his official
functions as a judge. Thus, Judge Paredes cannot be held liable for
misconduct, much less for grave misconduct.
The Court shares the view of Justice Diy that although the reasons of Judge
Paredes for discussing the marriage scams in his classes seemed noble, his
objectives were carried out insensitively and in bad taste. The pendency of
the administrative case of Judge Tormis and the publicity of the marriage
scams did not give Judge Paredes unrestrained license to criticize Judge
Tormis in his class discussions. The publicity given to the investigation of the
said scams and the fact that it was widely discussed in legal circles let
people expressed critical opinions on the issue. There was no need for Judge
Paredes to "rub salt to the wound,"25 as Justice Diy put it.
Judge Paredes in using intemperate language and unnecessary comments
tending to project Judge Tormis as a corrupt and ignorant judge in his class
discussions, was correctly found guilty of conduct unbecoming of a judge by
Justice Dy.
Indeed, the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary requires
judges to exemplify propriety at all times. Canon 4 instructs:
CANON 4
PROPRIETY
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.

A judge should always conduct himself in a manner that would preserve the
dignity, independence and respect for himself, the Court and the Judiciary as
a whole. He must exhibit the hallmark judicial temperament of utmost
sobriety and self-restraint. Heshould choose his words and exercise more
caution and control inexpressing himself. In other words, a judge should
possess the virtue of gravitas. Furthermore, a magistrate should not descend
to the level of a sharp-tongued, ill-mannered petty tyrant by uttering harsh
words, snide remarks and sarcastic comments. He is required to always be
temperate, patient and courteous, both in conduct and in language.26
In this case, records show that Judge Paredes failed to observe the propriety
required by the Code and to use temperate and courteous language befitting
a magistrate. Indeed, Judge Paredes demonstrated conduct unbecoming of a
judge.
When Judge Paredes failed to restrain himself and included Francis, whose
condition and personal circumstances, as properly observed by Justice Diy,
had no relevance to the topic that was then being discussed in class, it
strongly indicated his intention to taint their reputations.
The Court cannot sustain the assertion of Judge Paredes that he cannot be
held administratively liable for his negative portrayal of Judge Tormis and
Francis in his class discussions. Judge Paredes should be reminded of the
ethical conduct expected of him asa judge not only in the performance of his
judicial duties, but in his professional and private activities as well. Sections
1 and 2, Canon 2 of the Code mandates:
Finally, the Investigating Officer disagrees with Jills allegation that Judge
Paredes committed grave misconduct when he personally received cash
bailbond in relation to the Guioguio case. Judge Paredes justified his action
by stating that he was merely following the procedure set forth in Section 14,
Chapter 5 of A.M. No. 03-02-SC, which authorizes executive judges to act on
petitions for bail on Saturdays after 1:00 oclock in the afternoon, Sundays,
official holidays, and special days. Said rule also provides that should the
accused deposit cash bail, the executive judge shall acknowledge receipt of
the cash bail bond in writing and issue a temporary receipt therefor.
Considering that Judge Paredes merely followed said procedure, he cannot
beheld administratively liable for his act of receiving the cash bail bond in
the Guioguio case.

Moreover, respondent judge is authorized to receive the cash bail bond


under Section 17 (a), Rule 114 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.
Under said provision, the bail bond may be filed either with the court where
the case is pending, or with any Regional Trial Court (RTC) of the place of
arrest, or with any judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court or the Municipal Trial
Court of the place of arrest.
Lastly, Section 1 (h), Chapter 4 of A.M. No. 03-8-02-SC provides that
executive judges are authorized to exercise other powers and prerogatives
which are necessary or incidental to the performance of their functions in
relation to court administration. In the instant case, Judge Paredes was
merely exercising powers incidental to his functions as an Executive Judge
since he was the only judge available when Lita Guioguio posted bail.
Notably, Lita Guioguios payment for cash bail bond was made on a Sunday.
In addition, the judge assignedto the court where the Guioguio case was then
pending and the executive judge of the MTCC, Cebu City were not available
to receive the bail bond. Judge Paredes was the only judge available since
the practice was for one judge to be present on Saturdays. However, there
was no judge assigned for duty during Sundays.

Applicable Canon and Rule:


SEC. 1 of Canon 4, CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT FOR THE
PHILIPPINE JUDICIARY

Title: ANTONIO M. LORENZANA, vs. JUDGE MA. CECILIA I. AUSTRIA,


Regional Trial Court, Branch 2, Batangas City, A.M. No. RTJ-09-2200,
April 2, 2014
Ponente: Justice Brion
Facts:
In his verified complaint dated January 21, 2008, the 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.
The respondent vehemently denied the allegations against her. While she
admitted that she crafted a workable, feasible rehabilitation plan best suited
for SCP, she maintained that she did so only to render fairness and equity to
all the parties to the rehabilitation proceedings. She also submitted that if
indeed she erred in modifying the rehabilitation plan, hers was a mere error
of judgment that does not call for an administrative disciplinary action.
Accordingly, she claimed that the administrative complaints were premature
because judicial remedies were still available.5
The respondent also argued that the rules do not prohibit informal meetings
and conferences. On the contrary, she argued that informal meetings are
even encouraged in view of the summary and non-adversarial nature of
rehabilitation proceedings. Since Section 21, Rule 4 of the Rules6 gives the

rehabilitation receiver the power to meet with the creditors, then there is all
the more reason for the rehabilitation judge, who has the authority to
approve the plan, to call and hold meetings with the parties. She also
pointed out that it was SCP which suggested that informal meetings be
called and that she only agreed to hold these meetings on the condition that
all the parties would attend.
The OCA also found that the charges of bias and partiality in handling the
rehabilitation proceedings were not supported by evidence. It accepted the
respondents explanation in the charge of failure to observe the
reglementary period.
Lastly, the OCA maintained that the allegations of grave abuse of authority
and gross incompetence are judicial in nature, hence, they should not be the
subject of disciplinary action. On the other hand, on allegations of conduct
unbecoming of a judge, violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility
(Code), lack of circumspection and impropriety, the OCA shared Justice
Gonzales-Sisons observations that the respondents act of posting seductive
photos in her Friendster account contravened the standard of propriety set
forth by the Code.
Issue: Is Judge guilty of Section 1, Canon 4
Held:
We agree with the recommendation of both Justice Gonzales-Sison and the
OCA for the imposition of a fine on the respondent but modify the amount as
indicated below. We sustain Justice Gonzales-Sisons finding of gross
ignorance of the law in so far as the respondent ordered the creation of a
management committee without conducting an evidentiary hearing. The
absence of a hearing was a matter of basic due process that no magistrate
should be forgetful or careless about.
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
ones freedom of expression. The respondent judges act of joining Friendster
is, therefore, per se not violative of the New Code of Judicial Conduct.
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 peoples 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
publics 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 respondents act of posting her photos
would seem harmless and inoffensive had this act been done by an ordinary
member of the 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.1wphi1 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.
Imposable Penalty
Under Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 018-10-SC, gross ignorance of the law or procedure is classified as a serious
charge. Under Section 11(A) of the same Rule, a serious charge merits any of
the following sanctions:
1. Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as
the Court may determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or
appointment to any public office, including government-owned or
controlled corporations; provided, however, that the 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), but not exceeding six (6), months; or

3. A fine of more than P20,000.00, but not exceeding P40,000.00.


On the other hand, conduct unbecoming of a judge is classified as a light
offense under Section 10, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court. It is penalized
under Section 11(C) thereof by any of the following: (1) A fine of not less
thanP1,000.00 but not exceeding P10,000.00; (2) Censure; (3) Reprimand;
and ( 4) Admonition with warning.
Judge Austria's record shows that she had never been administratively
charged or found liable for any wrongdoing in the past. Since this is her first
offense, the Court finds it fair and proper to temper the penalty for her
offenses.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds Judge Ma. Cecilia I. Austria guilty of GROSS
IGNORANCE OF THE LAW for which she is FINED Twenty-One Thousand Pesos
(P21,000,00). 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 that a repetition of the same or similar
acts shall be dealt with more severely.