SC sacks judge who opened case resolved by higher court

Posted at 10/10/12 6:04 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court has sacked a Pampanga judge for opening a case already resolved by the Court of Appeals.

In an eight page decision, the Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno-led court sided with Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez in finding liable Angeles Regional Trial Court Branch 60 Judge Ofelia Pinto.

The SC imposed upon the judge the "forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and with prejudice to re-employment in any branch, agency or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations."

An investigation led by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) revealed that Pinto “misapplied the law” and disregarded a final decision of a higher court when she granted a motion of a convict to reopen a case.

"Judge Pinto had no jurisdiction to entertain the motion filed by the accused-movant to reopen the case because the CA's decision, which affirmed the accused-movant's conviction, had become final and executor," the high court said.

It dismissed Pinto’s defense of good faith and honest intention. "The matter of the accused-movant's denial of due process, as the case may be, should have been brought up to the CA or with the Court in an appropriate petition. Judge Pinto cannot relax mandatory rules to justify the award of judicial reliefs that are beyond her judicial authority to give."

While the OCA recommended a mere suspension, the high court imposed the higher penalty.

The high court explained this is not the first time that Pinto was penalized. In Oct. 2004, she was reprimanded for charges of gross inefficiency and neglect of duty. In July 2010, meanwhile, she was found liable for simple misconduct and gross ignorance of the law and was fined P10,000.

"To be able to render substantial justice and maintain public confidence in the legal system, judges should be embodiments of competence, integrity and independence.' Judges are also 'expected to exhibit more than just cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules and to apply them properly in all good faith," it stressed.