SC fines regional court judge for breach of duty
THE SUPREME COURT (SC) ordered a regional court judge to pay a fine of 17,500 pesos for failing to comply with a litigant’s request to authenticate video evidence for forensic examination and improvement.
In a resolution dated April 26 and released August 5, the court’s First Division found Talisay City Regional Trial Court Division 1 Presiding Judge Mario V. Manayon guilty of simple negligence of duty. , which is a less serious offense than the Judicial Integrity Board’s (JIB) original recommendation to fine him for undue delay in executing an order.
The court added that the trial court judge failed to “give due consideration to a task expected of an employee resulting either from negligence or indifference”.
Under the rules of the SC, magistrates found guilty of simple negligence in their duties are liable to a fine of more than 35,000 pesos but not exceeding 100,000 pesos and suspension from office of up to at six months.
The High Court noted that it had decided to impose a lesser fine as it was the judge’s first offense as the rules allow the court to impose a fine of at least half of 35,000 pesos .
“Considering that this is the first offense of the respondent judge, the penalty of automatic suspension for a period of at least one month and at most six months; or imposing a fine of more than 35,000.00 pesos but not exceeding 100,000 pesos is a bit harsh,” he said.
The court sternly warned Mr Manayon of a harsher sentence if he repeats the offense or commits a similar offence.
The fine stemmed from a disbarment complaint from Cristhyn R. Abing, a private litigant who alleged the judge showed bias towards a witness in a criminal case, with the judge repeatedly intervening during rebuttals. interrogations to answer the questions of the witness.
Ms Abing’s complaint accused the judge of obstructing justice by failing to comply with her request to authenticate video evidence and of alleged bias during the hearings.
The National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) regional cybercrime unit told him they could only perform a forensic examination of the video, but not authenticate it.
Mr. Manayon maintained that he only intervened in the cross-examination of the witness because he said the questions were vague or misleading.
“While judges should as far as possible refrain from showing bias towards one party and hostility towards another, this does not mean that a trial judge should remain silent throughout the trial and allow parties to ask any question they wish, on issues which they think are the important issue,” the High Court said.
The magistrate added that he had previously issued an order to authenticate the video, but the prosecution opposed Ms Abing’s further request to improve the video, saying it would tamper with the evidence.
He added that the complainant had agreed to return to the NBI to explain how the video was to be reviewed.
The High Court upheld the JIB’s report that the judge’s inaction in resolving the plaintiff’s petition made him liable for dereliction of duty.
“Judges must perform all judicial functions, including the delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly and with reasonable speed,” he said, citing the new code of judicial ethics. — John Victor D. Ordonez