Monday, December 22, 2008

Arbitrary detention

In the case of JUDGE DOLORES L. ESPAÑOL vs. JUDGE LORINDA B. TOLEDO- MUPAS, En Banc, A.M. No. 03-1462-MTJ, April 19, 2007, the Supreme Court held that when the gross inefficiency springs from a failure to consider so basic and elemental a rule, a law, or a principle in the discharge of his or her duties, a judge is either too incompetent and undeserving of the exalted position and title he or she holds, or the oversight or omission was deliberately done in bad faith and in grave abuse of judicial authority.


In the said case, the respondent judges insisted on issuing orders which she called "Detention Pending Investigation of the Case" which she insisted to be an implied waiver of the rights of the accused under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code.

The Court reminded the Bench that although judges have in their favor the presumption of regularity and good faith in the performance of their official functions, a blatant disregard of the clear and unmistakable terms of the law obviates this presumption and renders them susceptible to administrative sanctions. Being among the judicial front-liners who have direct contact with the litigants, a wanton display of utter lack of familiarity with the rules by the judge inevitably erodes the confidence of the public in the competence of our courts to render justice. It subjects the judiciary to embarrassment. Worse, it could raise the specter of corruption.


May I digest the same below, thus:


X x x.

In the same Comment, Judge Español said that Judge Mupas operated the MTC of Dasmariñas, Cavite as a “One-Stop Shop” where criminal suspects apprehended without a warrant are ordered detained in the municipal jail by virtue of an unsigned “Detention Pending Investigation of the Case,” in lieu of a waiver of the provisions of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, as prescribed by R.A. No. 7438 and by Section 7, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Thus, according to Judge Español, the apprehended persons were detained for a long time until Judge Mupas set the case for preliminary investigation. If the detainee can post bail, Judge Mupas would fix the amount of bail and require that the premium, usually equivalent to 20% or 30% thereof, be paid in cash. If the surety bond was secured outside of the MTC, the bond would be rejected. Hence, the applicants for bail bonds would go to the RTC of Dasmariñas, Cavite to complain and apply for the release of the detention prisoners.

X x x.


Accordingly, Judge Mupas faced the following charges: (1) violation of Rule 112, Section 7 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, and Republic Act No. 7438; and (2) violation of the rules on preliminary investigation (a) for the delay in the resolution of preliminary investigation cases pending in [Judge Mupas’] court; (b) for failure to perform her ministerial duty of transmitting the records of the case, including the resolution on the preliminary investigation, within 10 days from the issuance of the said resolution to the provincial prosecutor of Cavite; and (c) for conducting preliminary investigation despite the fact that there were many prosecutors in Cavite not indisposed to do the job.

X x x.


In an undated Resolution filed with the OCA on February 9, 2007, Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal found, contrary to Judge Mupas’ claim, that the document entitled "Detention Pending Investigation of Cases" cannot validly be deemed to be an implied waiver of the rights of the accused under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code. Justice Vidal submits the following findings:

“Extant from the records, is Respondent’s admission of her practice in the issuance of the document entitled ‘Detention Pending Investigation of Cases’ claiming, however, that such document served as an implied waiver of the rights of the accused under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code.

“The undersigned disagrees.

“Sec. 2 e) of RA 7438 is in point, thus:

xxx Any waiver by a person arrested or detained under the provisions of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, or under custodial investigation, shall be in writing and signed by such person in the presence of his counsel; otherwise the waiver shall be null and void and of no effect. (Underscoring supplied)

“The afore cited law is clear and simple. Thus, construction is unnecessary. Clearly, what the said provision requires to protect the rights of the accused is a written waiver signed by the accused with the assistance of a counsel. However, the procedure adopted by the Respondent runs counter thereto. She resorted to the issuance of a commitment order dubbed as ‘Detention Pending Investigation of the Case’ to legally prolong the detention of the accused pending the resolution of the preliminary investigation. Obviously, this is not within the contemplation of the law. Thus, the practice is highly erroneous – a blatant manifestation of ignorance in the legal procedure.

“The New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary (AM No. 03-05-01-SC; June 1, 2004) provides:

Canon 6 – Competence and Diligence
xxx
Sec. 3. Judges shall take reasonable steps to maintain and enhance their knowledge, skills and personal qualities necessary for the proper performance of judicial duties, taking advantage for this purpose of the training and other facilities which should be made available, under judicial control, to judges.
xxx

“Otherwise put, Respondent is presumed to know the basic measures to protect the rights of the accused during preliminary investigation. Sadly, Respondent failed in this regard. Instead, she maintained the practice of issuing this highly improper order, i.e., ‘Detention Pending Investigation of the Case’, just to put a semblance of legality in the detention of the accused.”



With respect to the other charges, Justice Vidal found the evidence insufficient to support the accusations that Judge Mupas: (1) detained the accused for a long period of time while the preliminary investigation was pending in her court; (2) failed to transmit to the Provincial Prosecutor of Cavite the records of the case within 10 days after preliminary investigation; and (3) acted without authority to conduct preliminary investigation because there were enough prosecutors in Cavite to conduct the same.


Justice Vidal then concludes:


“However, the undersigned finds that Respondent should still be held administratively liable. Respondent’s act of issuing orders dubbed as ‘Detention Pending Investigation of Cases’ instead of requiring the accused to execute a written waiver, with the assistance of counsel, pursuant to Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, fall [sic] short of the measure of responsibility expected from a judge.

“Respondent should be reminded that the actions of everyone connected with an office charged with the dispensation of justice, from the presiding judge to the clerk of lowest rank, should be circumscribed with a high degree of responsibility. The image of a court, as a true temple of justice, is mirrored in the conduct, official or otherwise, of the men and women who work thereat. Judicial personnel are expected to be living examples of uprightness in the performance of official duties [and] preserve at all times the good name and standing of the courts in the community.”


X x x.

There is no gainsaying that Judge Mupas’ practice of issuing "Detention Pending Investigation of the Case" orders in lieu of a written waiver signed by the accused with the assistance of counsel is, in the words of Justice Vidal, "a blatant manifestation of ignorance in the legal procedure." It is gross ignorance of the law, pure and simple.

X x x.

In the present case, while the documents denominated "Detention Pending Investigation of the Case" were issued during the same period of time that the three (3) above-cited cases were decided, it is noteworthy that Judge Mupas continued with the practice even after her attention had been called. Worse, she remained insistent that the document was an implied waiver of the rights of the accused under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code. Judge Mupas must be reminded that although judges have in their favor the presumption of regularity and good faith in the performance of their official functions, a blatant disregard of the clear and unmistakable terms of the law obviates this presumption and renders them susceptible to administrative sanctions. Being among the judicial front-liners who have direct contact with the litigants, a wanton display of utter lack of familiarity with the rules by the judge inevitably erodes the confidence of the public in the competence of our courts to render justice. It subjects the judiciary to embarrassment. Worse, it could raise the specter of corruption.

When the gross inefficiency springs from a failure to consider so basic and elemental a rule, a law, or a principle in the discharge of his or her duties, a judge is either too incompetent and undeserving of the exalted position and title he or she holds, or the oversight or omission was deliberately done in bad faith and in grave abuse of judicial authority.

All said, this Court finds the respondent, Judge Lorinda B. Toledo-Mupas, administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law. Considering that this is her fourth offense, she deserves to be meted the supreme penalty of dismissal from the service, with all the accessory penalties appurtenant thereto.

X x x.

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