SC dismisses Cavite RTC judge for ignorance of law
THE Supreme Court has dismissed from service a Cavite Regional Trial Court judge who has been found administratively liable for dismissing the case against 10 members of the Lex Leonum fraternity involved in the fatal hazing of San Beda law student Marc Andrei Marcos in 2012.
In a decision, the high court ordered the dismissal from service of Judge Perla V. Cabrera-Faller, presiding judge of Regional Trial Court, Branch 90, Dasmariñas City, Cavite.
The SC also ordered the forfeiture of Faller’s retirement benefits as judge.
The decision came after the high court upheld the findings of the Office of the Court of Administration, which found Faller guilty of gross ignorance of the law and for violating Rule 1.01 and Rule 3.01, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, but modified its recommended penalty.
Instead of imposing a six-month suspension from the service without salary as recommended by the OCA, the high tribunal also resolved to dismiss the respondent judge from the service.
Faller’s dismissal stemmed from her orders issued in 2013 recalling the arrest warrants against the accused, saying that these were inadvertently issued despite the earlier finding of probable cause for the issuance of such; for sending the record of the case to the archives, and for hastily dismissing the criminal case without hearing the side of the prosecution.
“Without a quibble, Judge Cabrera-Faller demonstrated lack of knowledge and understanding of the basic rules of procedure when she issued the questioned orders,” the SC said.
On May 8, 2013, the Office of the Prosecutor issued a resolution recommending the prosecution of several Lex Leonum fraternity members for violation of Republic Act No. 8049, otherwise known as the Anti-Hazing Law.
In the same resolution, the OCP also recommended that Cornelio Marcelo, the person assigned to be the buddy or “angel” of Marc Andrei during the initiation rites, be discharged as a state witness.
Subsequently, the information for violation of R.A. No. 8049 was filed against Jenno Antonio Villanueva, Emmanuel Jefferson Santiago, Richard Rosales Mohamad Fyzee Alim Chino Daniel Amante Julius Arsenio Alcancia, Edrich Gomez, Dexter Circa, Gian Angelo Veluz, Glenn Meduen, alias Tanton, alias Fidel, alias E.R., and alias Paulo, before the RTC.
Finding probable cause to sustain the prosecution of the accused, Judge Cabrera-Faller issued an order dated June 3, 2013, directing the issuance of a warrant of arrest and, at the same time, the archiving of the entire record of the case until the arrest of the accused.
On August 15, 2013, acting on the separate motions for the determination of probable cause and to withhold issuance of warrants of arrest and extremely urgent motion to quash warrant of arrest filed by the accused, the respondent judge issued an order quashing, lifting and setting aside the warrants for their arrest and ultimately dismissing the case against all of the accused for lack of probable cause.
In dismissing the case, Judge Faller pointed out that she found no probable cause to indict the accused for violation of R.A. No. 8049 as the statement of Marcelo and those of the other accused failed to show that the accused conspired to inflict fatal initiation rites injuries on Marc Andrei.
In immediately archiving the case without waiting for the six-month period, the Court held that the respondent judge “exhibited bias, if not incompetence and ignorance of the law and jurisprudence.”
“It could also be that she knew it, but she opted to completely ignore the law or the regulations. Certainly, it was a case of grave abuse of discretion as her actuations were not in accord with law or justice,” the SC said.
On the other hand, the Court said Judge Cabrera-Faller’s recall of the arrest warrants could only mean that she failed to comply with her constitutional mandate to personally determine the existence of probable cause before ordering the issuance of the warrants of arrest.
It noted that the judge even failed to explain why she issued the warrants inadvertently.
“Her utter disregard of the laws and rules of procedure, to wit: the immediate archiving of Criminal Case No. 11862-13, the recall of the warrant of arrest which she claimed were issued inadvertently and the hasty dismissal of the case displayed her lack of competence and probity, and can only be considered as grave abuse of authority. All these constitute gross ignorance of the law and incompetence,” the Court ruled.
The SC added that considering the strong evidence presented by the prosecutors, it would have been more prudent for the respondent judge to conduct summary hearings in view of the conflicting statements of the prosecution and defense witnesses
“Although this is not actually required by the rules, when the direct and circumstantial evidence are so detailed and corroborative of one another in every particular, it behooved upon her to make further inquiries. Precipitate dismissal of the case, in the face of overwhelming evidence, can only raise quizzical eyebrows,” the SC ruled.