Jan 11, 2021 @ 14:01

Bacolod judge liable for making researcher do unrelated duties, designing T-shirts at work, tantrums

The Supreme Court (SC) has suspended Bacolod City Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 1 Judge Jose Paolo Ariola for three months and imposed a P20,000 fine for assigning a legal researcher to do duties not related to her job, designing and printing T-shirts during office hours, telling green jokes to his staff, walking out of a wedding ceremony, and destroying a cabinet in a fit of anger.

In a recent 19-page minute resolution, the SC 2nd Division found Judge Ariola guilty of simple misconduct, conduct unbecoming of a judge, and oppression and harassment. For these administrative offenses, he was ordered suspended for 3 months, pay a fine of P10,000, and pay another fine of P10,000, respectively.

The SC warned Judge Ariola that a commission of the same or similar acts in the future would be dealt with severely.

Judge Ariola’s biggest offense was passing on to legal research Liberty Monje the duties of court interpreter Augustus Alvero, whom the judge suspended for three months without the approval of the Executive Judge and the SC.

Although the SC recognized Judge Ariola’s authority to discipline his staff, the SC said he cannot pass the work to an employee holding a different position, because Section 7, Canon IV of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel prohibits requiring personnel to “perform any work or duty outside the scope of their assigned job description.”

The SC pointed out that requiring Monje to juggle the duties of court interpreter and legal researcher was counterproductive as it “adversely affected her work efficiency and professional responsibility in the dispensation of justice.”

The SC also held Judge Ariola for designing and printing T-shirts during office hours, emphasizing that “decision-making is the primordial duty of all the members of the bench.”

It rejected his claim that he only did it during idle time or as soon as the work for the day is finished.

“Observing official time and doing diligently our work in the administration of justice will help maintain the trust and confidence of the public in the judicial system. Service in the judiciary is not only a duty but also a mission,” read the minute resolution signed by Deputy Division Clerk of Court Teresita Aquino Tuazon.

These actions taken together constituted simple misconduct, punishable by suspension.

The SC also found Judge Ariola guilty of oppression and harassment by confiscating the computer assigned to Monje on the basis of loss of trust and confidence.

It was not convinced by his claim that he only wanted to prevent the disclosure of decisions and court orders in her possession, citing the lack of proof that she leaked any documents.

“Verily, the act of confiscating the computer issued to Monje for no justifiable reason constitutes Oppression and Harassment. It is an abuse of authority on the part of respondent Judge thereby affecting the performance of Monje’s functions as the Legal Researcher,” the SC said.

Lastly, the SC found Judge Ariola guilty of conduct unbecoming of a judge due to various acts.

During the wedding ceremony of Joy Perido and Jessica Tan, the judge got distracted by the loud music in the venue and the noisy guests, so he directly proceeded to the recital of vows, had the couple sign the marriage contract, declared them husband and wife, cut the ceremony short and immediately left the venue.

The SC noted that he himself entertained doubts on the validity of the marriage ceremony since he immediately asked the clerk of court if it can be officiated again by another judge. This showed that he “easily gets irritated and is unable to control his temper.”

Meanwhile, his admission that he punched the cabinet of clerk of court Florita de la Cruz during a fit of anger “is another manifestation of his lack of judicial temperament,” the SC said. Even if he was provoked, this “cannot exculpate him from any liability.”

The SC also found his sexual innuendos “inappropriate” and did not accept his explanation that the green jokes were just meant to lighten the staff’s mood. “Sexually implicit jokes uttered by a magistrate diminish the esteem in which he holds the Judiciary in general,” it said.

Even in his pleadings in the administrative case, the SC said Judge Ariola “failed to observe proper judicial decorum” by calling Monje a “backstabbing snitch” and “walang utang na loob (ingrate).”

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