Tuesday 22 January, 2019
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Literal na sala? SC slaps Palawan judge with fine for living inside the court

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Literal na sala? SC slaps Palawan judge with fine for living inside the court

The Supreme Court (SC) has slapped a Palawan judge with a P11,000 fine for using the courtroom as her house.

In a recent 7-page decision, the SC 1st Division also issued a stern warning against Brooke’s Point-Sofronio Española-Bataraza Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) Judge Evelyn Cañete for violating SC Administrative Circular No. 3-92, which prohibits the use of halls of justice for residential or commercial purposes.

The case arose from the complaint of stenographer Edgar Abiog, who accused Cañete of residing in her chamber, constructing an extension and entertaining her family and guests while the municipal government paid for her electricity and water bills.

Cañete reasoned out that the municipal government offered her space out of gratitude for her service, and said she had to give up her apartment in Puerto Princesa City, four hours away. She also cited convenience, as she had to do overtime work.

The SC, however, refuted this reasoning. Citing a letter by Brooke’s Point Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano, the SC found that Cañete entered into a verbal agreement for the use of her office as living space in lieu of representation and transportation allowances—to which she was never entitled to begin with.

It said propriety demanded that Cañete should have refused the offer, especially as “the provision of a residential quarters is not among her privileges as a judge.”

“Respondent judge must know that there is always a price to pay for tainted offerings, however innocuous or harmless they may appear. And the price is almost always loss of integrity or at the very least, compromised independence. Needless to say, that is a stiff price to pay, especially by a member of the judiciary, whose basic, irreducible qualification, is unimpeachable integrity,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.

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