SC fines judges in ‘Ma’am Arlene’ elections controversy
The Supreme Court has fined three judges and admonished a fourth in connection with “Ma’am Arlene,” a bigtime court fixer whose influence even tainted the 2013 Philippine Judges Association (PJA) Convention.
Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 132 Judge Rommel Baybay was ordered to pay a P30,000 fine for violating Sections 4(a) and 4(d) of the Guidelines on the Conduct of Elections of Judges’ Associations.
Baybay was held liable for giving away cellphones as raffle prizes and providing hotel rooms with 25% discounts to select judges during the campaign period.
Quezon City RTC Branch 83 Judge Ralph Lee and Biñan City, Laguna, RTC Branch 24 Judge Marino Rubia were each fined P21,000 for violating Section 4(a) of the election guidelines regarding the distribution of prohibited campaign materials.
Lee gave away desk calendars, posters and tarpaulins, while Rubia gifted bags, caps and T-shirts.
Meanwhile, Manila RTC Branch 24 Judge Lyliha Aquino was “admonished to be more circumspect in her actions so as to maintain propriety and the appearance of propriety in her judicial as well as non-judicial activities.”
Aquino failed to observe propriety when she booked the hotel room accommodations for the judges even when she was running for reelection as secretary-general, the SC said in a 64-page per curium decision.
“A Judge’s behavior, not only while in the performance of official duties but also outside the court, must be beyond reproach. While all judges are required to hold themselves to the strictest standards of conduct, it is only reasonable to expect more of those who seek elective office in judges’ associations as they can best lead by example,” the SC stressed.
The investigation into the apparent misconduct in the PJA Convention was an offshoot of the SC’s October 17, 2013 resolution creating an ad hoc committee to investigate the columns of Jairus Bondoc regarding the fixer dubbed as the “Napoles of the judiciary.”