Retired Marawi judge Balindong found guilty of gross ignorance over questionable orders in quo warranto case

The Supreme Court (SC) has forfeited the retirement benefits of retired Marawi City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 8 Acting Judge Rasad Balindong and disqualified him from public office, after finding him guilty of gross ignorance of the law in connection with his handling of a quo warranto case.

In a recent 11-page en banc decision, the SC faulted Balindong for his “patent disregard of basic and established rules and jurisprudence” over numerous errors in the dispute involving the chairmanship of Barangay Bubonga Marawi.

Abdulsamad Bogabong’s complaint was an offshoot of the quo warranto case filed against him by Omera Hadji Isa-Ali.

Isa-Ali was appointed by then-Mayor Fahad Salic as barangay chairman on April 10, 2008 following the failure of the December 15, 2007 elections.

At the time, Bogabong, the elected first kagawad, was serving as chairman in holdover capacity following the death of Dianisia Bacarat, herself a chairman in holdover capacity.

On May 5, 2009, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) office acknowledged Bogabong as the legitimate chairman in holdover capacity. This enabled him to take over the position and withdraw the barangay’s May 2009 internal revenue allotment (IRA).

Omera then filed the quo warranto case. Judge Balindong on July 2, 2009 issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Bogabong.

On July 22, 2009, he issued a writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) that directed him and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to cease and desist from releasing the barangay’s IRA. These two orders were granted without requiring Omera to file bonds.

Then, on August 24, 2009, Judge Balindong granted the quo warranto petition, ruling that Bogabong effectively waived his right to the position because of his failure to assume office after Bacarat’s office.

While Bogabong appealed the decision before the Court of Appeals (CA), Omera filed an urgent motion for execution pending appeal and cited the continuation of barangay projects as “good reasons.”

Judge Balindong granted Omera’s motion and said Bogabong’s appeal “seemed dilatory” and “the lapse of time would make the ultimate judgment ineffective.” The CA reversed Judge Balindong’s quo warranto ruling on September 13, 2012.

The CA decision became Bogabong’s basis for filing the administrative complaint. In response, Judge Balindong claimed he acted reasonable, prudently and appropriately, and gave both parties their day in court.

The SC, however, said Judge Balindong made “more than mere errors of judgment that can be excused and left to the judicial remedy of review by the appellate court for correction.”

It said the judge “patently erred” in recognizing the legitimacy of the mayor’s appointment of Omera, contrary to the “basic” rule that permanent vacancies in elective offices are filled through automatic succession.

The SC added that the TRO and the WPI should not have been granted without requiring Omera to post the necessary bonds under Section 4, Rule 58 of the Rules of Court. It noted that Judge Balindong’s orders did not contain any expanation or even any mention of the bonds.

Lastly, the SC said the judge gravely erred in granting Omera’s urgent motion for execution pending appeal for lacking evidence and being based on his “bare allegations.”

It faulted Judge Balindong for questioning Bogabong’s right to appeal and said he “prematurely judged the merits of the main case on appeal” with his statements.

Making matters worse was the fact that this was the third time Judge Balindong was found guilty of improperly issuing TROs and WPIs.

In a February 23, 2009 resolution, Judge Balindong was fined P30,000 for gross ignorance of the law and P10,000 for violation of the Lawyer’s Oath for stopping the implementation of a suspension order by the Ombudsman despite the lack of jurisdiction.

In a September 6, 2011 decision, the judge was again fined P30,000 for issuing a TRO against a sheriff who was implementing the final and executory judgment of another RTC in a civil case.

“When a law or rule is basic, judges owe it to their office to simply apply the law. Anything less is ignorance of the law, warranting administrative sanction,” read the per curiam decision.

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