SC fines retired judge over CCP rental case
THE Supreme Court has imposed a fine of P500,000 against a retired Pasay City Regional Trial Court judge after finding him guilty of gross ignorance of the law, undue delay in rendering an order and evident bias and partiality despite strong grounds for his inhibition.
The SC found retired Judge Pedro DL. Gutierrez, formerly of Pasay City RTC, Branch 119, guilty of gross ignorance of the law, undue delay in rendering an order, and bias and partiality. The P500,000 fine would be deducted from his retirement benefits.
The SC imposed the fine against the Pasay City judge after the Court of Appeals on Nov. 11, 2013 ruled that Gutierrez have committed grave abuse of discretion when he issued a writ of preliminary injunction in a civil case involving an expired lease contract between the Cultural Center of the Philippines and one of its tenants.
The appellate court held the lease contract itself would have shown, at first glance, that the tenant “was not entitled to the writ, even without a full-blown trial.”
Despite the pronouncements of the appellate court and CCP’s repeated motions for his inhibition, Gutierrez proceeded with the case and even enjoined the parties to make a compromise agreement relative to the removal of the fence placed by the CCP outside of the leased premises.
He also granted the tenant’s motion for removal of the fence erected by CCP, and denied anew CCP’s motion for his inhibition.
Because of this, the SC found Gutierrez liable for evident bias and partiality.
“Based on the foregoing, the respondent judge manifested ignorance as to the propriety or impropriety of issuing a writ of preliminary injunction,” the SC ruled.
The SC also found it “equally disturbing” the judge’s “stubbornness to cling to the subject case for unknown reason,” noting that Gutierrez inhibited himself from the case only on Nov. 25, 2014, or only after numerous motions for inhibition filed by CCP, the receipt of the SC Resolution dated June 2, 2014 which upheld nullification by the CA of Judge Gutierrez’s issuance of writ of preliminary injunction against CCP, and after the filing of the instant administrative case against him.
“In other words, there were several valid and significant grounds for him to inhibit from the case voluntarily yet he refused to do so for unknown reason,” the SC stressed.
It also said that the totality of the circumstances and the actuations of the Judge Gutierrez attendant to the case clearly lead to the inescapable conclusion that he evidently favored CCP’s former tenant, “a clear indication bias and partiality that calls for a severe administrative sanction.”