August 28th, 2009
By Judge Gabriel T. Ingles
Cebu Daily News
ADELPHA E. MALABED,
- versus -
JUDGE ENRIQUE C. ASIS,
Regional Trial Court,
Branch 16, Naval, Biliran,
A.M. No. RTJ-07-2031
(Formerly OCA IPI No. 06-2484-RTJ)
Promulgated: August 4, 2009
Equally tenuous is complainant’s contention that the CA’s finding of grave abuse of discretion of the part of respondent Judge proves the latter’s bias and partiality. A finding of grave abuse of discretion does not necessarily prove that respondent Judge displayed a preference for one of the party-litigants. As aptly observed by the Investigating Justice, the reversal of a judge’s order by a superior court in a certiorari case is, in itself, not a ground for an administrative action against the judge. Respondent Judge, by granting the petition for relief in Civil Case No. B-1016 on the ground that complainant failed to disclose a verbal agreement between her family and defendants therein, may have committed an error of judgment. However, in the absence of bad faith, such erroneous judgment cannot be a ground for disciplinary action.5
In Maylas, Jr. v. Judge Sese,6 respondent Judge was administratively charged because he granted a motion to quash based on a ground not raised by the accused, and the CA found that such act was tantamount to a grave abuse of discretion. The Court dismissed the complaint against respondent Judge, holding thus:
x x x
In the absence of fraud, dishonesty and corruption, the acts of a judge in his official capacity are not subject to disciplinary action. He cannot be subjected to liability – civil, criminal or administrative – for any of his official acts, no matter how erroneous as long as he acts in good faith. Only judicial errors tainted with fraud, dishonesty, gross ignorance, bad faith or deliberate intent to do an injustice will be administratively sanctioned. Settled is the rule that errors committed by a judge in the exercise of his adjudicative functions cannot be corrected through administrative proceedings, but should instead be assailed through judicial remedies.7
While the Investigating Justice may have cleared respondent Judge of administrative liability in the present case, the Court, nonetheless, takes into consideration that there have been several administrative complaints previously filed against respondent Judge.
In Tabao v. Judge Asis,8 herein respondent Judge was found administratively liable for gross irregularity in the performance of his duties, violation of Supreme Court circulars and regulations, and abuse of authority and conduct unbecoming of a judge, and fined in the amount of P10,000.00.
In Almendra v. Judge Asis,9 herein respondent Judge was found guilty of serious inefficiency, for which he was suspended for ten (10) days, fined P40,000.00 and warned that a repetition of the same or similar acts would be dealt with more severely.
In Atty. Nenita Ceniza-Layese v. Judge Enrique C. Asis,10 respondent Judge was also found guilty of misconduct and dishonesty, for which he was fined P20,000.00.
On the other hand, the cases of Ang v. Judge Asis11 and Dadizon v. Judge Asis12 were both dismissed for lack of merit, although in the former, respondent Judge was reprimanded and made to pay a fine of P5,000.00, as well as admonished to be more circumspect and act with more dispatch in the performance of his official functions.
Respondent Judge must bear in mind that membership in the judiciary circumscribes one’s personal conduct and imposes upon him certain restrictions, the faithful observance of which is the price one has to pay for holding such a distinguished position. A magistrate of the law must comport himself in a manner that his conduct must be free of a whiff of impropriety, not only with respect to the performance of his official duties, but also to his behavior outside of his sala and as a private individual. His conduct must be able to 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 lest public confidence in the judiciary would be eroded by the incompetent, irresponsible and negligent conduct of judges.13 In this case, respondent Judge should have been more cautious in his close associations with members of the Bar that led complainant to believe that the former had already been predisposed to the opposing party and, hence, renders his impartiality questionable.
WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Enrique C. Asis of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 16 of Naval, Biliran, is ordered to pay a FINE of P20,000.00, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.
This Decision shall be immediately executory.
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