See - SB-14-21-J.pdf
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A judge must not only be impartial but must also appear to be impartial and that fraternizing with litigants tarnishes this appearance.20. Public confidence in the Judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct of judges. A judge must avoid all impropriety and the appearance thereof. Being the subject of constant public scrutiny, a judge should freely and willingly accept restrictions on conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.21
In Cañeda v. Alaan,22 we held that:
Judges are required not only to be impartial but also to appear to be so, for appearance is an essential manifestation of reality. Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins judges to avoid not just impropriety in their conduct but even the mere appearance of impropriety. They must conduct themselves in such a manner that they give no ground for reproach. [Respondent’s] acts have been less than circumspect. He should have kept himself free from any appearance of impropriety and endeavored to distance himself from any act liable to create an impression of indecorum.
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Indeed, respondent must always bear in mind that:
“A judicial office traces a line around his official as well as personal conduct, a price one has to pay for occupying an exalted position in the judiciary, beyond which he may not freely venture. Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins a judge to avoid not just impropriety in the performance of judicial duties but in all his activities whether in his public or private life. He must conduct himself in a manner that gives no ground for reproach.” (Emphasis supplied.)
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Judges must, at all times, be beyond reproach and should avoid even the mere suggestion of partiality and impropriety.24 Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct states that “[p]ropriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all the activities of a judge.”
Section 2 further provides:
SEC. 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must accept personal restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly. In particular, judges shall conduct themselves in a way that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.
As we held in Sibayan-Joaquin v. Javellana25
…Judges, indeed, should be extra prudent in associating with litigants and counsel appearing before them so as to avoid even a mere perception of possible bias or partiality. It is not expected, of course, that judges should live in retirement or seclusion from any social intercourse. Indeed, it may be desirable, for instance, that they continue, time and work commitments permitting, to relate to members of the bar in worthwhile endeavors and in such fields of interest, in general, as are in keeping with the noble aims and objectives of the legal profession. In pending or prospective litigations before them, however, judges should be scrupulously careful to avoid anything that may tend to awaken the suspicion that their personal, social or sundry relations could influence their objectivity, for not only must judges possess proficiency in law but that also they must act and behave in such manner that would assure, with great comfort, litigants and their counsel of the judges’ competence, integrity and independence.
In this light, it does not matter that the case is no longer pending when improper acts were committed by the judge. Because magistrates are under constant public scrutiny, the termination of a case will not deter public criticisms for acts which may cast suspicion on its disposition or resolution. As what transpired in this case, respondent’s association with Napoles has unfortunately dragged the Judiciary into the “Pork Barrel” controversy which initially involved only legislative and executive officials. Worse, Napoles’ much-flaunted “contact” in the judiciary is no less than a Justice of the Sandiganbayan, our special court tasked with hearing graft cases. We cannot, by any stretch of indulgence and compassion, consider respondent’s transgression as a simple misconduct.
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