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Ex-Dumaguete judge disbarred for still living with mistress, having another child despite SC warning

The Supreme Court (SC) has disbarred retired Dumaguete City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 41 Judge Benigno Villarente, Jr., for continuing to live with his mistress and even having another child with her despite an earlier warning.

In a recent 12-page en banc decision, the SC, voting 13-1, declared Villarente guilty of gross immorality in violation of Rules 1.01 and 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) and ordered his name stricken off the Roll of Attorneys.

The sanction arose from a disbarment complaint filed by Villarente’s legal wife Catherine, whom he married in 1975 and with whom he had four children.

Catherine first filed a complaint against Villarente in 2005, alleging that in 2002, Villarente started living with Maria Ellen Guarin, who gave birth to a son on Christmas Day that year.

The SC 2nd Division, in a September 25, 2013 resolution, ordered Villarente’s suspension for one year with stern warning that the matter would be dealt with more severely, should his conduct be proven to be grossly immoral.

Yet, according to the report of Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Investigating Commissioner Dominica Dumangeg-Rosario, Villarente continued to live with Guarin, who gave birth to their second son.

The birth certificate even identified the father as “Benigno Jr. Clitar Villarente” with the occupation of “Lawyer (Ret. RTC Judge).” Villarente signed a duly notarized Affidavit of Acknowledgment/Admission of Paternity.

The SC said Villarente’s continued cohabitation with Guarin and his defiance of its earlier warning “shows his cavalier attitude, even arrogance towards the Court.” It added that the fact that Villarente was a retired Judge “aggravates his infractions.”

“For having occupied a place of honor in the Bench, respondent knew that a judge’s actuations ought to be free from any appearance of impropriety. This is because a judge is the visible representation of the law, and more importantly, of justice,” read the per curiam decision.

“Such misbehavior over a long period of time shows a serious flaw in respondent’s character, his moral indifference to scandal in the community, and his outright defiance of established norms,” it added. “As these acts put the legal profession in disrepute and place the integrity of the administration of justice in peril, the need for strict, but appropriate action is therefore in order.”

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen dissented from the decision to disbar Villarente, saying his issues were “mainly private matters not directly related” to his duties as a lawyer.

Leonen argued that Villarente should only be suspended for three years for violation of Rule 7.03 of the CPR, which requires a lawyer to conduct himself in a manner consistent with the integrity and dignity of the legal profession, even in his personal dealings. #

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