Tuesday 22 January, 2019
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Nagpamudmod ng hotel room, cellphone! SC punishes 4 judges for bad behavior in PJA elections

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The Supreme Court penalized four Regional Trial Court (RTC) judges for serious administrative liabilities when they ran as candidates during the 2013 Philippine Judges Association Convention and elections.

In a 64-page per curiam decision promulgated on September 25, 2018, the four judges penalized by the High Court were:

1) Judge Lyliha Aquino, RTC of Manila, Branch 24 who was admonished to be more circumspect in her actions for booking hotel rooms for fellow judges in the 2013 PJA Convention and election when she was running for re-election as PJA Secretary-General.

2) Judge Ralph Lee, RTC of Quezon City, Branch 83 who was fined P21,000 Judge for giving away prohibited campaign materials, such as desk calendars, posters, and tarpaulins.

3) Judge Marino Rubia, RTC of Biñan, Laguna, Branch 24, who was fined P21,000 for distributing illegal campaign kits consisting of a bag, cap, t-shirt, and printing materials.

4) Judge Rommel Baybay, RTC of Makati City, Branch 132 who was fined P30,000 for giving away cellphones as raffle prizes and providing hotel room accommodations with 25 percent discount to select judges at the same Convention during the campaign period.

“With this Decision, the Court hopes to impress upon the judges the strict standards of conduct of their office. Section 1, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins judges to ‘avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their
activities,’” the Court said, underscoring that stricter adherence to standards of conduct are expected from those who seek elective office in judges’ association “as they can best lead by example.”

Section 4(a) of the Guidelines specifies prohibited acts and practices relative to elections, including the distribution and
dissemination of any election campaign material “other than the curriculum vitae or the biodata of a candidate and flyers indicating the candidate’s qualifications, plan of action, platform or other information on his vision and objectives for the association. No other election campaign materials like posters, streamers, banners or other printed propaganda matters shall be prepared, used and distributed by candidates.”

The Court ruled that Aquino failed to maintain the appearance of propriety in booking room accommodations for judges. It said that Aquino’s booking of accommodation for the PJA members “although done in good faith or with the best intentions, could be easily misconstrued and politicized during the period of election of PJA officers to be intended to further Judge Aquino’s candidacy.”

Approved by the Court in its Resolution dated May 3, 2007 in AM No. 07-17-17-SC, the Guidelines are aimed at ensuring that “the different judges’ associations would prudently manage as well as undertake honest, simple, clean, transparent and orderly elections of their officers” and and keeping “the amount of campaigning and electioneering within reasonable limits and to assist in the maintenance of spirit of collegiality and essential fairness in such elections[.]”

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