Manila Bulletin Online reports that Chief Justice Reynaldo Puno has just acted on the cases of errant three judges and three lawyers. In an effort to rid the Supreme Court of corruption and protect the integrity of the legal profession, Puno:
- Suspended for one year without pay Judge Eddie R. Rojas of Branch 37 of the regional trial court (RTC) of General Santos City.
- Ordered to pay a fine of P40,000 resigned RTC Judge Jaime Vega Quitain of Branch 10 in Davao City.
- Imposed an P11,000 fine on RTC Judge Oscar E. Dinopol of Branch 24 in Koronadal City.
- Disbarred Jose R. Imbang, a former lawyer of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) of the Department of Justice. He was found to have handled a private case while he was still in the government service.
- Suspended for six months was lawyer Antoniutti K. Palana for his refusal to settle his monetary obligations.
- Meted out a two-year suspension from the practice of law to lawyer Renato L. Gonzales for performing notarial acts in Pasig City while his authority was for Quezon City.
Another meritorious act from the Chief Justice. (The earlier one was his calling for a national summit on extra-judicial killings.) I guess that of all State actors or personalities, it is only the Chief Justice who has earned the right to do good things, if not really institute reforms, without any tint of doubt from the citizenry. I distinguish between “doing good things in public” and “really instituting reforms in the background.” The first is what the the trapos do. The second is the agenda of real leaders and managers.
Moreover, I wonder if Puno’s campaign is retroactive to previous years when there were gross lapses from some judges in particular. I’m citing here an instance when a particular judge in Davao City intervened in 2002 a case regarding valuation of a land being subjected to transfer to legitimate farmer beneficiaries. The judge brazenly ruled to peg the valuation of at 2 million pesos per hectare, as if he did not know the distortive effect of that to land market. He did not seem to care whether that would sap the government’s cache. There are other similar cases in other parts of the country.
In 2000, a judge in Buenavista, Quezon, intervened in a trespassing case filed by a landowner against his tenants who have clamored for subjecting his big landholding under agrarian reform. It turned out that the judge is part landowner of that particular landholding. So he would obviously hear the case with a clear bias and eventually pass judgment in favor of the landowners.
Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide issued in 2006 (?) a Memorandum Circular ordering local trial courts not to intervene in agrarian disputes. The DAR and the farmer-beneficiaries must have viewed that as a great gain. But the judges would not have cared and defied the order. Thus, the need for equipping the victimized farmers with knowledge and skills in filing cases against errant judges (and lawyers). Aside from this, they need financial assistance not only from relevant government agencies (DAR in particular) but also from non-government organizations in course of filing these cases.
I would have loved Justice Puno taking on agrarian justice next in his agenda.