< All Topics

1. Compulsory


1) Compulsory; and

2) Voluntary. (Ramiscal v. Hernandez, G.R. No. 173057-74, 20 September 2010)

1) Rooted in the Constitution

It must be borne in mind that the inhibition of judges is rooted in the Constitution, specifically Article III, the Bill of Rights, which requires that a hearing is conducted before an impartial and disinterested tribunal because unquestionably, every litigant is entitled to nothing less than the cold neutrality of an impartial judge. All the other elements of due process, like notice and hearing, would be meaningless if the ultimate decision would come from a partial and biased judge. (Rubin v. Corpus-Cabochan, OCA I.P.I. No. 11-3589-RTJ, 29 July 2013)

a) Duty of the judge

Certainly, a presiding judge must maintain and preserve the trust and faith of the parties-litigants. He must hold himself above reproach and suspicion. At the very first sign of lack of faith and trust in his actions, whether well-grounded or not, the judge has no other alternative but to inhibit himself from the case. The better course for the judge under the circumstances is to disqualify himself. That way, he avoids being misunderstood; his reputation for probity and objectivity is preserved. What is more important, the ideal of impartial administration of justice is lived up to. (Ibid.)

1. Compulsory


No judge or judicial officer shall sit in any case in which he, or his wife or child, is pecuniarily interested as heir, legatee, creditor or otherwise, or in which he is related to either party within the sixth degree of consanguinity or affinity, or to counsel within the fourth degree, computed according to the rules of the civil law, or in which he has been executor, administrator, guardian, trustee or counsel, or in which he has been presided in any inferior court when his ruling or decision is the subject of review, without the written consent of all parties in interest, signed by them and entered upon the record. (Paragraph 1, Section 1, Rule 137, Rules of Court)

Under compulsory disqualification, it is conclusively presumed that judges cannot actively and impartially sit in the instances mentioned. (Ramiscal v. Hernandez, supra.)

1) Prosecutor then judge

As such, the mere appearance of his name as the public prosecutor in the records of Criminal Case No. 17446 sufficed to disqualify Judge Elumba from sitting on and deciding the case. Having represented the State in the prosecution of the petitioner, he could not sincerely claim neutrality or impartiality as the trial judge who would continue to hear the case. Hence, he should have removed himself from being the trial judge in Criminal Case No. 17446. (Bilbao v. People, G.R. No. 175999, 01 July 2015)

To be clear, that Judge Elumba’s prior participation as the public prosecutor was passive, or that he entered his appearance as the public prosecutor long after the Prosecution had rested its case against the petitioner did not really matter. The evil sought to be prevented by the rules on disqualification had no relation whatsoever with the judge’s degree of participation in the case before becoming the judge. He must be reminded that the same compulsory disqualification that applied to him could similarly be demanded of the private prosecutor or the defense lawyer, if either of them should be appointed as the trial judge hearing the case. The purpose of this stricture is to ensure that the proceedings in court that would affect the life, liberty and property of the petitioner as the accused should be conducted and determined by a judge who was wholly free, disinterested, impartial and independent. (Ibid.)

2) Objection to a disqualified judge, how made and effect

If it be claimed that an official is disqualified from sitting as above provided, the party objecting to his competency may, in writing, file with the official his objection, stating the grounds therefor, and the official shall thereupon proceed with the trial, or withdraw therefrom, in accordance with his determination of the question of his disqualification. His decision shall be forthwith made in writing and filed with the other papers in the case, but no appeal or stay shall be allowed from, or by reason of, his decision in favor of his own competency, until after final judgment in the case. (Section 2, Rule 137, Rules of Court)

Next 2. Voluntary
Table of Contents