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Judicial Ethics: Clemency, As An Act Of Mercy Removing Any Disqualification, Should Be Balanced With The Preservation Of Public Confidence In The Courts…

Baguinda-Ali, a former presiding judge of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Balindong, Lanao del Sur, filed a petition for judicial clemency in connection with his intention to rejoin the judiciary as Regional Trial Court judge. Prior to his resignation as MCTC judge on December 1, 2009, Baguinda-Ali was found administratively liable for dishonesty, gross misconduct and gross ignorance of the law in A.M. No. MTJ-03-1505 and ordered to pay a fine of P20,000.00, as well as given a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely. A week after the decision was rendered in the case, he was charged again in A.M. No. MTJ-11-1791 by several police officers of the Marawi City Police . Before the decision in the second administrative case agains him could be rendered, he resigned his post. He was again found administratively liable, meted six months suspension, converted to forfeiture of his salary withheld by the Court, and corresponding charges for violation of PD 1829 ordered filed against him. In his petition, the only hindrance in appointment to the position of the RTC judge was the administrative case against him; he thus pleads for judicial clemency and a prayer that the penalty imposed be reduced to a P10,000.0 fine.
The Supreme Court:
“This Court in A.M. No. 07-7-17-SC (Re: Letter of Judge Augustus C. Diaz, Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 37, Appealing for Judicial Clemency) laid down the following guidelines in resolving requests for judicial clemency, to wit:
1. There must be proof of remorse and reformation. These shall include but should not be limited to certifications or testimonials of the officer(s) or chapter(s) of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, judges or judges associations and prominent members of the community with proven integrity and probity. A subsequent finding of guilt in an administrative case for the same or similar misconduct will give rise to a strong presumption of non-reformation.

2. Sufficient time must have lapsed from the imposition of the penalty to ensure a period of reformation.

3. The age of the person asking for clemency must show that he still has productive years ahead of him that can be put to good use by giving him a chance to redeem himself.

4. There must be a showing of promise (such as intellectual aptitude, learning or legal acumen or contribution to legal scholarship and the development of the legal system or administrative and other relevant skills), as well as potential for public service.

5. There must be other relevant factors and circumstances that may justify clemency.  (Emphasis supplied.)
Respondent’s petition is not supported by any single proof of his professed repentance. His appeal for clemency is solely anchored on his avowed intention to go back to the judiciary on his personal belief that “he can be x x x an effective instrument in the delivery of justice in the Province of Lanao del Sur because of his seventeen (17) years of experience,” and on his “promise before the Almighty God and the High Court that he will never repeat the acts or omissions that he had committed as a Judge.”  He claims having learned “enough lessons” during the three years he became jobless and his family had “suffered so much because of his shortcoming.”
Apart from respondent’s own declarations, there is no independent evidence or relevant circumstances to justify clemency. Applying the standards set by this Court in A.M. No. 07-7-17-SC, respondent’s petition for judicial clemency must be denied.
In the present case, the Court held that respondent exhibited gross ignorance of procedure in the conduct of election cases in connection with petitions for inclusion of voters in the barangay elections, resulting in delays such that complainant’s name was not timely included in the master list and consequently he was not considered a candidate for barangay chairman. Such failure to observe fundamental rules relative to the petitions for inclusion cannot be excused. Further, respondent was found to have intentionally fabricated an order which supposedly granted a motion for intervention by the counsel for the incumbent mayor whose re-election complainant and his co-petitioners were allegedly not willing to support. Respondent’s act of fabricating an order to cover up his official shortcomings constitutes dishonesty, a reprehensible act that will not be sanctioned by this Court.
In the subsequent administrative case (A.M. No. MTJ-11-1791), respondent was found to have misused his authority when he, over the vigorous objection of complainants police officers, took custody of an accused then detained in jail for carnapping charges, by merely issuing a signed handwritten acknowledgment receipt with an undertaking to present the said accused to the court when ordered.   Said accused was never returned to jail and while the case against him was dismissed, there was no order for release issued by the court.  Respondent endeavored to justify his act in aiding the accused by virtue of his position as Sultan in his hometown, but the Court found him liable for Grave Misconduct, warranting his dismissal from the service.  But since the penalty of dismissal can no longer be imposed on account of respondent’s resignation, he was meted the penalty of six months suspension converted to forfeiture of the corresponding amount of his salary.  This second administrative offense committed by respondent also led to the OCA’s filing of a criminal complaint for obstruction of justice against him.
Given the gravity of respondent’s transgressions, it becomes more imperative to require factual support for respondent’s allegations of remorse and reform.  As this Court previously declared:
Concerned with safeguarding the integrity of the judiciary, this Court has come down hard and wielded the rod of discipline against members of the judiciary who have fallen short of the exacting standards of judicial conduct. This is because a judge is the visible representation of the law and of justice. He must comport himself in a manner that his conduct must be free of a whiff of impropriety, not only with respect to the performance of his official duties but also as to his behavior outside his sala and as a private individual. His character must be able to withstand the most searching public scrutiny because the ethical principles and sense of propriety of a judge are essential to the preservation of the people’s faith in the judicial system.
Clemency, as an act of mercy removing any disqualification, should be balanced with the preservation of public confidence in the courts. The Court will grant it only if there is a showing that it is merited. Proof of reformation and a showing of potential and promise are indispensable. (Emphasis supplied.)”
FIRST DIVISION, A.M. No. MTJ-03-1505, November 27, 2013, MAMASAW SULTAN ALI, COMPLAINANT, VS. HON. BAGUINDA-ALI PACALNA, PRESIDING JUDGE, HON. PUNDAYA A. BERUA, ACTING PRESIDING JUDGE, HADJI IBRA DARIMBANG, CLERK OF COURT AND MANDAG U. BATUA-AN, COURT STENOGRAPHER, ALL OF THE MUNICIPAL CIRCUIT TRIAL COURT, MUNICIPALITY OF BALINDONG, PROVINCE OF LANAO DEL SUR, RESPONDENTS. 

IN THE MATTER OF: PETITION FOR ABSOLUTE JUDICIAL CLEMENCY OF FORMER JUDGE BAGUINDA-ALI A. PACALNA, MTCC, MARAWI CITY.

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