The Supreme Court has exhorted judges that they should behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity of the Judiciary, and avoid impropriety and appearance of impropriety in all their actions.
This came after the SC resolved to penalize a lower court judge who has been found guilty of impropriety for stopping the implementation of a valid writ of execution.
In an 11-page resolution dated June 3, 2019, the SC First Division through Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo found Judge Hannibal R. Patricio of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, president Roxas-Pilar, Capiz, guilty of three counts of Conduct Unbecoming of a Judicial Officer and imposed on him a fine of P40,000 for interfering with the implementation of a writ of execution.
The SC held that Patricio violated Canon 2, Sections 1 and 2, and Canon 4, Sections 1 and 2, of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary which states that integrity and propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential in the discharge of the judicial office.
The high court found that Judge Patricio resorted to threats and intimidation to stop the implementation of a valid writ of execution by saying that something untoward might happen if the writ was carried out.
While Judge Patricio did not employ actual force in its literal sense, the SC ruled that the threats he uttered effectively prevented or stopped the carrying out of the writ.
“A judge should possess the virtue of gravitas which means that a magistrate should not descend to the level of a sharp-tongued, ill-mannered petty tyrant by uttering harsh words, snide remarks and sarcastic comments/ he is required to always be temperate, patient and courteous, both in conduct and language,” the tribunal said.
Likewise, the SC reminded that as a holder of a judicial office that commands respect, Judge Patricio should accord respect to another officer of the court, a sheriff who is implementing a writ of execution.
In ruling against the judge, the SC noted that Judge Patricio did not deny his presence at the premises of the subject properties and that he even admitted that he prevented the fencing of Lot Nos. 703 and 706 on the belief that the sketch plan on which the fencing would be based was erroneous.
Judge Patricio claimed that if the fencing were to push through, there would have been a possible encroachment on a property he owns with his wife. He even assisted his wife by preparing a motion to intervene in the Civil Case and affixing his signature thereon.
Although the SC agreed with Judge Patricio that the same does not constitute private practice of law, it noted that the title “Judge” is appended to Judge Patricio’s name appearing on the motion to intervene.
“[E]ven if he did not intend to take undue advantage of his title, it nevertheless gave the appearance of impropriety considering the circumstances of the case.” Further, the SC held that the same may be construed as an attempt “to influence or put pressure on a fellow judge by emphasizing that he himself is a judge and is thus in the right,” the SC ruled.
Since Judge Patricio had already been previously adjudged guilty of gross ignorance of the law, manifest bias and partiality in a previous administrative case wherein he was meted a P21,000 fine, the SC decided to imposed on him the fine of P40,000 with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.