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2. Code of Judicial Conduct

a. SUPPLETORY APPLICATION

The Canons of Judicial Ethics and the Code of Judicial Conduct shall be applicable in a suppletory character in case of deficiency or absence of specific provisions in the New Code of Judicial Conduct. (Ibid.)

NB:

1) The following are canons and rules, as well as discussions, drawn from the Code of Judicial Conduct, which has suppletory application to the New Code of Judicial Conduct.

2) Based on item B, Part II – Judicial Ethics, of the Bar Exam Syllabus, focus is on the New Code of Judicial Conduct.

Canon 1: A judge should uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.

1) Public trust

Public trust requires that that the Supreme Court exact strict integrity from judges and court employees. This case emphasizes the need for members of the judiciary and those within its employ to exhibit the impartiality, prudence, and propriety that the New Code of Judicial Conduct and the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel require when dealing with parties in pending cases. (Sison-Barias v. Rubia, A.M. No. RTJ-14-2388, 10 June 2014)

2) Embodiment of integrity

Judges or Justices are held to a higher standard for they should be the embodiment of competence, integrity, and independence, hence, their conduct should be above reproach. (Re: Show Cause Order in the Decision dated May 11, 2018 in G.R. No. 234428 [Republic v. Sereno], A.M. No. 18-06-01-SC, 17 July 2018)

Rule 1.01: A judge should be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence.

1) Embodiment of all that is good, efficient, competent, honest, and reliable

The career of a judge, as required in the Code of Judicial Conduct, entails the highest degree of competence, integrity and independence, because a judge ought to be the embodiment of all that is good, efficient, competent, honest and reliable. Woe unto the magistrate who is wanting in any of these virtues. (Macarang v. Jardin, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1448, 06 April 2000)

2) Competence of our courts

Competence is a mark of a good judge. When a judge exhibits an utter lack of know-how with the rules or with settled jurisprudence, he erodes the public’s confidence in the competence of our courts. It is highly crucial that judges be acquainted with the law and basic legal principles. Ignorance of the law, which everyone is bound to know, excuses no one – not even judges. (Ibid.)

3) Visible representation of the law

Upon his assumption to office, a judge ceases to be an ordinary mortal. He becomes the visible representation of the law and, more importantly, of justice. He must be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence. A magistrate of the law must comport himself at all times in such manner that his conduct, official or otherwise, can bear the most searching scrutiny of the public that looks up to him as the epitome of integrity and justice. (Lastimosa-Dalawampu v. Yrastorza, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1793, 05 February 2004)

Rule 1.02: A judge should administer justice impartially and without delay.

1) No to delay

The Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins judges to administer justice impartially and without delay. They must dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the required periods. Failure of a judge to decide a case within the prescribed period is inexcusable and constitutes gross inefficiency warranting a disciplinary sanction. (Tam v. Regencia, A.M. No. MTJ-05-1604, 27 June 2006)

Rule 1.03: A judge should be vigilant against any attempt to subvert the independence of the judiciary and should forthwith resist any pressure from whatever source intended to influence the performance of official functions.

1) Vigilance against subverting judicial independence

Respondent-judge violated Canon 1, Rule 1.03 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which mandates that a judge should be vigilant against any attempt to subvert the independence of the judiciary and resist any pressure from whatever source. Respondent Judge demonstrated that he was susceptible to external pressure when he stated that “Accused’s counsel and mother, before this case was set for hearing were consistently following [up] for the resolution of the Court on the pleadings filed… Because of their insistent follow-ups, the Court has issued an Order dated January 15, 2003 acting on the pleadings filed.” (Almojuela v. Ringor, A.M. No. MTJ-04-1521, 27 July 2004)

Canon 2: A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities

1) Using letterheads

Respondent-judge crossed the line of propriety when he used his letterhead to report a complaint involving an alleged violation of church rules and, possibly, of Philippine laws. Coming from a judge with the letter addressed to a foreign reader, such report could indeed have conveyed the impression of official recognition or notice of the reported violation..(Belen v. Belen, A.M. No. RTJ-08-2139, 09 August 2010)

2) Using titles

While the use of the title is an official designation as well as an honor that an incumbent has earned, a line still has to be drawn based on the circumstances of the use of the appellation. While the title can be used for social and other identification purposes, it cannot be used with the intent to use the prestige of his judicial office to gainfully advance his personal, family or other pecuniary interests. Nor can the prestige of a judicial office be used or lent to advance the private interests of others, or to convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. To do any of these is to cross into the prohibited field of impropriety. (Ibid.)

Rule 2.01: A judge should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

1) No declaration of bias

Judge Floro, by broadcasting to his staff and the PAO lawyer that he is pro-accused, opened himself up to suspicion regarding his impartiality. Prudence and judicial restraint dictate that a judge should reserve personal views and predilections to himself so as not to stir up suspicions of bias and unfairness. Irresponsible speech or improper conduct of a judge erodes public confidence in the judiciary. “His language, both written and spoken, must be guarded and measured, lest the best of intentions be misconstrued.” (Office of the Court Administrator v. Floro, supra.)

Rule 2.02: A judge should not seek publicity for personal vainglory.

1) No vainglory

Vainglory, in its ordinary meaning, refers to an individual’s excessive or ostentatious pride especially in one’s own achievements. (Uy v. Javellana, A.M. No. MTJ-07-1666, 05 September 2012)

The previous Code of Judicial Conduct specifically warned the judges against seeking publicity for personal vainglory. Even no longer explicitly stated in the New Code of Judicial Conduct, judges are still proscribed from engaging in self-promotion and indulging their vanity and pride by Canons 1 (on Integrity) and 2 (on Propriety) of the New Code. (Ibid.)

2) Mentioning accomplishments

Respondent-judge himself admitted that he often mentioned his previous accomplishments as counsel in big and controversial cases, claiming that he only did so to impress upon the parties that he meant business and that he relied greatly upon God to survive the trials and threats to his life. Canon 2, Rule 2.02 of the Code of Judicial Conduct says in no uncertain terms that “a judge should not seek publicity for personal vainglory. Judge Javellana’s actuations run counter to the mandate that judges behave at all times in such a manner as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. (Ibid.)

Rule 2.03: A judge shall not allow family, social, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. The prestige of judicial office shall not be used or lent to advance the private interests of others, nor convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.

1) Allowing wife to go over case records

Respondent-judge’s practice of allowing his wife to go over the records of cases in his sala may indeed convey the impression that she is the one who can probably influence respondent’s official functions. If complainant Gordon, who is an employee of the court, has perceived Mrs. Lilagan as having meddled or interfered in respondent’s official functions as well as the activities of the court, it is highly probable that such an impression is shared by other people in the locality. Needless to state, this will definitely not promote or enhance the people’s faith in the judiciary. (Gordon v. Lilagan, A.M. No. RTJ-00-1564, 26 July 2001)

Rule 2.04: A judge should refrain from influencing in any manner the outcome of litigation or dispute pending before another court or administrative agency.

1) Influencing another judge, prohibited

However, respondent-judge’s two telephone calls to Judge Achilles L. Melicor who was presiding the court where the petition to stop the governor was pending, definitely violates the Code of Judicial Conduct, particularly Section 3 of Canon I, which states that “Judges shall refrain from influencing in any manner the outcome of litigation or dispute pending before another court or administrative agency.” (Concerned Boholanos for Law and Order v. Calibo, A.M. No. RTJ-01-1621, 27 September 2007)

1) As witness, allowed

Respondent-judge’s act of assisting his wife in his private capacity, being privy to the transactions as a witness, does not necessarily signify that he is using his authority in influencing the outcome of any proceeding or investigation. (Perez v. Costales, A.M. No. RTJ-04-1876, 23 February 2005)

Canon 3: A judge should perform official duties honestly, and with impartiality and diligence.

1) Exemplify honest public service

A judge should personify judicial integrity and exemplify honest public service. The personal behavior of a judge, both in the performance of official duties and in private life should be above suspicion. (Angping v. Ros, A.M. No. 12-8-160-RTC, 10 December 2012)

2) Adjudicative Responsibilities

Rule 3.01: A judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence.

1) Faithful to the law

A judge should be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence. (Lucero v. Bungalan, A.M. No. MTJ-04-1534, 07 September 2004)

2) Competence, mark of a good judge

Competence is the mark of a good judge. Having accepted the exalted position of a judge, whereby he judges his own fellowmen, the judge owes it to the public who depend on him, and to the dignity of the court he sits in, to be proficient in the law. (Alcaraz v. Lindo, A.M. No. MTJ-04-1539, 14 April 2004)

3) Judicial remedy over administrative case

Anent the correctness of respondent-judge’s decision and denial of complainant’s Motion for Annulment of Decision, being essentially judicial in character, the proper action that complainant should have taken was an appeal to the Regional Trial Court. An administrative complaint is not the appropriate remedy for every act of a judge deemed aberrant or irregular where a judicial remedy exists and is available. (Ibid.)

Rule 3.02: In every case, a judge shall endeavor diligently to ascertain the facts and the applicable law unswayed by partisan interests, public opinion or fear of criticism.

1) Errors in order or decisions

No one called upon to try the facts or interpret the law in the administration of justice can be infallible; anzd a judge may not always be subjected to disciplinary action for every erroneous order or decision he renders. Nevertheless, this relative immunity is not a license for the judge to be negligent or abusive and arbitrary in the performance of his adjudicatory prerogatives. The judge is under obligation to observe propriety, discreetness and due care in the performance of his judicial functions. (Ibid.)

2) Diligence in reviewing draft decisions

The efficacy of a decision is not necessarily impaired by the fact that its writer took over from a colleague who had earlier presided at the trial, unless there is a showing of grave abuse of discretion in the factual findings reached by him. The fact that the judge who prepared, signed and promulgated the decision was not the one who heard the evidence does not render the judgment void per se. However, respondent judge should have exercised caution and carefully scrutinized the draft decision to make the necessary corrections before affixing his signature thereon. His failure to do so betrays his carelessness and laziness, which are anathema to the professional competence and diligence required of judge. (Ibid.)

Rule 3.03: A judge shall maintain order and proper decorum in the court.

1) Maintain decorum

Judges shall maintain order and decorum in all proceedings before the court and be patient, dignified and courteous in relation to litigants, witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity. Judges shall require similar conduct of legal representatives, court staff and others subject to their influence, direction or control. (Cañeda v. Menchavez, A.M. No. RTJ-06-2026, 04 March 2009)

Rule 3.04: A judge should be patient, attentive, and courteous to lawyers, especially the inexperienced, to litigants, witnesses, and others appearing before the court. A judge should avoid unconsciously falling into the attitude of mind that the litigants are made for the courts, instead of the courts for the litigants.

1) Temperate language

It is reprehensible for a judge to humiliate a lawyer, litigant or witness. The act betrays lack of patience, prudence and restraint. Thus, a judge must at all times be temperate in his language He must choose his words, written or spoken, with utmost care and sufficient control. The wise and just man is esteemed for his discernment. Pleasing speech increases his persuasiveness. (Juan Dela Cruz [Concerned Citizen of Legazpi City] v. Carretas, A.M. No. RTJ-07-2043, 05 September 2007)

Rule 3.05: A judge shall dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the required periods.

1) To observe required periods

A judge cannot choose his deadline for deciding cases pending before him. Without an extension granted by this Court, the failure to decide even a single case within the required period constitutes gross inefficiency that merits administrative sanction. (OCA v. Casalan, A.M. No. RTJ-14-2385, 20 April 2016)

The Court has always impressed upon all members of the judiciary the need to decide cases promptly and expeditiously on the principle that justice delayed is justice denied. The Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins judges to administer justice impartially and without delay. They must dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the required periods. Failure of a judge to decide a case within the prescribed period is inexcusable and constitutes gross inefficiency warranting a disciplinary sanction. (Ricafranca v. Lopez, A.M. No. RTJ-00-1583, 15 November 2000)

Rule 3.06: While a judge may, to promote justice, prevent waste of time or clear up some obscurity, properly intervene in the presentation of evidence during the trial, it should always be borne in mind that undue interference may prevent the proper presentation of the cause or the ascertainment of truth.

1) Clarificatory questions

A judge may properly intervene in the presentation of evidence to expedite and prevent unnecessary waste of time and clarify obscure and incomplete details in the course of the testimony of the witness or thereafter. Questions designed to clarify points and to elicit additional relevant evidence are not improper. (Dela Cruz v. Carretas, A.M. No. RTJ-07-2043)

But the judge should limit himself to asking clarificatory questions and the power should be sparingly and judiciously used. The rule is that the court should stay out of it as much as possible, neither interfering nor intervening in the conduct of the trial. A judge must always maintain cold neutrality and impartiality for he is a magistrate, not an advocate. (Ibid.)

Rule 3.07: A judge should abstain from making public comments on any pending or impending case and should require similar restraint on the part of court personnel.

1) No irrelevant opinions

The remark of the respondent-judge in his Order dated August 31, 1998, aside from being totally irrelevant, was improper, offensive and uncalled for. He insinuated that the reason for Balagtas’ filing of criminal cases against Peith was she was incensed for being dumped by the latter in favor of another woman. The respondent judge repeated his tirade against Balagtas in his Letter-Comment dated May 24, 1999 where he stated that Balagtas has a “personal agenda of vendetta” against Peith and that she was motivated by “personal ill motive and selfish interest.” The respondent judge deserves the sternest reproof for making these remarks. Judges should refrain from expressing irrelevant opinions in their decisions which may only reflect unfavorably upon their competence and the propriety of their judicial actuations. Moreover, intemperate speech detracts from the equanimity and judiciousness that should be the constant hallmarks of a dispenser of justice. (Balagtas v. Sarmiento, A.M. No. MTJ-01-1377, 17 June 2004)

b. ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITIES

Rule 3.08: A judge should diligently discharge administrative responsibilities, maintain professional competence in court management, and facilitate the performance of the administrative functions or other judges and court personnel.

1) Diligent discharge of administrative responsibilities

Respondent-judge was not remiss in her administrative responsibilities so as to render her liable for gross inefficiency. Rule 3.08 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a judge should diligently discharge administrative responsibilities, maintain professional competence in court management, and facilitate the performance of the administrative functions of other judges and court personnel. The OCA found that respondent judge exerted reasonable efforts to implement an efficient case flow management, and for the court personnel to strive for excellence in public service. The OCA noted that respondent judge had previously filed an administrative case against a utility worker for gross inefficiency. In the present case, respondent judge did not fail (a) to rectify the error, and (b) discipline her erring staff. (De Vega v. Asdala, A.M. No. RTJ-06-1997, 23 October 2006)

2) Record management system

Respondent-judge has been remiss in his duty and responsibility as court manager by failing to adopt a system of record management. Consequently, case records were misplaced, resulting in his failure to decide the subject cases within the reglementary period before he was promoted to the Regional Trial Court. That his personnel failed to inform him of the unresolved cases does not exculpate him from administrative sanction. Proper and efficient court management is the responsibility of the judge, and he is the one directly responsible for the proper discharge of his official functions.3 He thus cannot take refuge behind the supposed mistakes or inefficiency of his clerk of court. (OCA v. Quilala, A.M. No. MTJ-01-1341, 15 February 2001)

Rule 3.09: A judge should organize and supervise the court personnel to ensure the prompt and efficient dispatch of business, and require at all times the observance of high standards of public service and fidelity.

1) As administrative officers

As administrative officers of the court, judges should organize and supervise court personnel to ensure the prompt and efficient dispatch of business, as well as the observance of high standards of public service and fidelity at all TIMES. (Ibid.)

Rule 3.10: A judge should take or initiate appropriate disciplinary measures against lawyers or court personnel for unprofessional conduct of which the judge may have become aware.

1) To take or initiate appropriate disciplinary measures

Judges are authorized under Rule 3.1021 of the Code of Judicial Conduct to take or initiate appropriate disciplinary measures against lawyers or court personnel for unprofessional conduct. As administrator of their courts, they are responsible for its conduct and management. Judges have the duty to supervise court personnel to ensure prompt and efficient dispatch of business in their courts. (Tan v. Paredes, A.M. No. P-04-1789, 22 July 2005)

2) Only Supreme Court to suspend court employees

The authority of judges and/or executive judges to discipline erring court personnel under their supervision is limited to light offenses only. Under Supreme Court Circular No. 30-91,25 the suspension of a court employee charged with grave or less grave offenses shall be referred to the Supreme Court for appropriate action. (Ibid.)

Rule 3.11: A judge should appoint commissioners, receivers, trustees, guardians, administrators and others strictly on the basis of merit and qualifications, avoiding nepotism and favoritism. Unless otherwise allowed by law, the same criteria should be observed in recommending appointment of court personnel. Where the payment of compensation is allowed, it should be reasonable and commensurate with the fair value of services rendered.

1) Nepotism, a violation

Respondent-judge was appointed and confirmed as Judge of Municipal Court of Jolo on May 29, 1972. He assumed office on May 29, 1972.1 On June 16, 1978, he recommended the appointment of his nephew, Omar Kalim, the son of his older sister, Nuridjan Ambutong, to the position of Janitor of his court. He falsely certified that Kalim was not related to him by affinity or consanguinity within the third degree. He was penalized. (Sulu Islamic Association of Masjid Lambayong v. Malik, A.M. No. MTJ-92-691, 10 September 1993)

The law on nepotism, as provided in Section 49(a) or PD No. 807, prohibits the appointing or recommending authority from making any appointment in the national, provincial, city or municipal governments or in any branch or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations, in favor of his (appointing or recommending authority’s) relative within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity. Thus, in order to guarantee that the law is duly observed, it is required, among others, that the appointment paper should be accompanied by a certification of the appointing or recommending authority stating therein that he is not related to the appointee within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity. Although Section 49(a) or PD No. 807 does not explicitly provide that the appointing or, recommending authority shall, disclose his true relationship with the appointee in the form or a certification, nonetheless, in the light of the rulings in the aforecited cases, the legal obligation or the appointing or recommending authority to state the true facts required to be stated in the certification is inherent in the law on prohibition against nepotism and the nature and purpose of such certification. (Ibid.)

c. DISQUALIFICATION

Rule 3.12: A judge should take no part in a proceeding where the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. These cases include among others, proceedings where: (a) the judge has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding; (b) the judge served as executor, administrator, guardian, trustee or lawyer in the case or matter in controversy, or a former associate of the judge served as counsel during their association, or the judge or lawyer was a material witness therein; (c) the judge’s ruling in a lower court is the subject of review; (d) the judge is related by consanguinity or affinity to a party litigant within the sixth degree or to counsel within the fourth degree; (e) the judge knows the judge’s spouse or child has a financial interest, as heir, legatee, creditor, fiduciary, or otherwise, in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.

In every instance, the judge shall indicate the legal reason for inhibition.

d. REMITTAL OF DISQUALIFICATION

Rule 3.13: A judge disqualified by the terms of rule 3.12 may, instead of withdrawing from the proceeding, disclose on the record the basis of disqualification. If, bases on such disclosure, the parties and lawyers independently of judge’s participation, all agree in writing that the reason for the inhibition is immaterial or insubstantial, the judge may then participate in the proceeding. The agreement, signed by all parties and lawyers, shall be incorporated in the record of the proceeding.

NB: See related discussions on compulsory and voluntary disqualification.

Canon 5: A judge should regulate extra-judicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial duties

e. ADVOCATIONAL, CIVIL, AND CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES

Rule 5.01: A judge may engage in the following activities provided that they do not interfere with the performance of judicial duties or detract from the dignity of the court: (a) write, teach and speak on non-legal subjects; (b) engage in the arts, sports, and other special recreational activities; (c) participate in civic and charitable activities; (d) serve as an officer, director, trustee, or non-legal advisor of a non-profit or non-political educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization.

1) Activities should not detract from dignity of the court

In persistently attacking the movie-making activities of the provincial governor and repeatedly threatening to file an action against a public officer, respondent encourages litigation and causes dissension against the public officer concerned. As a judge, respondent’s role is to maintain equanimity and not instigate litigation. This is not to say that one can not question the improper activities of government officials if there are any. However, it is not proper for a judge to write publications of carelessly-worded editorials in local newspapers. Also worth nothing is the fact that respondent judge holds sensitive and demanding positions at The Mirror. Not only does he act as its contributor or columnist, he is also its publisher, editor and legal adviser. Although the Code of Judicial Conduct allows a judge to engage in certain lawful activities, they should interfere with the performance of judicial duties nor detract from the dignity of the court. (Galang v. Santos, G.R. No. MTJ-99-1197, 26 May 1999)

f. FINANCIAL ACTIVITIES

Rule 5.02: A judge shall refrain from financial and business dealing that tend to reflect adversely on the court’s impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of judicial activities or increase involvement with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court. A judge should so manage investments and other financial interests as to minimize the number of cases giving grounds for disqualifications.

1) Participating in sale of real property

Respondent-judge took part in a commercial transaction falling outside of the area delineated in Rule 5.03. Worse, respondent Judge did so in an underhanded manner, concealing vital information on Lot No. 1470’s ownership and non-registrability until after the sale had been consummated. By involving himself in such a transaction, respondent Judge not only allowed himself to be distracted from the performance of his judicial duties,17 he also increased his involvement with persons likely to come before his sala regarding Lot No. 1470, thus increasing the chances of his disqualification from future litigation concerning that property. (Rosauro v. Kallos, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1796, 10 February 2006)

Where a judge acted as a sales agent receiving a commission for the sale of real property, he violated the prohibition on financial and business dealing. By allowing himself to act as agent in the sale of the subject property, respondent judge has increased the possibility of his disqualification to act as an impartial judge in the event that a dispute involving the said contract of sale arises. Also, the possibility that the parties to the sale might plead before his court is not remote and his business dealings with them might not only create suspicion as to his fairness but also to his ability to render it in a manner that is free from any suspicion as to its fairness and impartiality, and also as to the judge’s integrity. (Alorro v. Barte, A.M. No. MTJ-02-1443, 31 July 2002)

Rule 5.03: Subject to the provisions of the proceeding rule, a judge may hold and manage investments but should not serve as officer, director, manager or advisor, or employee of any business except as director of a family business of the judge.

1) The only limited exception to commercial activity

It is not good for judges to engage in business except only to the extent allowed by Rule 5.03 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. (Ibid.)

Rule 5.04: A judge or any immediate member of the family shall not accept a gift, bequest, factor or loan from any one except as may be allowed by law.

1) No accepting of gifts

Respondent-judge’s act of allowing a litigant in his sala to pay for the freight of his personal acquisitions constitutes a blatant violation of Rule 5.04, Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibiting judges from accepting a gift, bequest, favor or loan from anyone except as may be allowed by law. Judge Agcaoili thereby degraded the administration of justice, mocked the dignity of his office, and cast doubt on the independence and integrity of the entire judiciary.

NB: See exceptions under Section 15, Canon 4, New Code of Judicial Conduct.

Rule 5.05: No information acquired in a judicial capacity shall be sued or disclosed by a judge in any financial dealing or for any other purpose not related to judicial activities.

g. FIDUCIARY ACTIVITIES

Rule 5.06: A judge should not serve as the executor, administrator, trustee, guardian, or other fiduciary, except for the estate, trusts, or person of a member of the immediate family, and then only if such service will not interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties. “Member of immediate family” shall be limited to the spouse and relatives within the second degree of consanguinity. As a family, a judge shall not: (a) serve in proceedings that might come before the court of said judge; or (b) act as such contrary to rules 5.02 to 5.05.

1) Fiduciary capacity

The Code of Judicial Conduct lays down the guidelines with respect to fiduciary activities that judges may engage in. The thin line between what is allowed and what is not allowed is set forth in Rule 5.06, and therein made very specific. (Ramos v. Barot, A.M. No. MTJ-00-1338, 21 January 2004)

GENERAL RULE: As a general rule, judges cannot serve as executor, administrator, trustee, guardian or other fiduciary. (Ibid.)

EXCEPTION: … except if he acts in a fiduciary capacity for the estate, trust or person of a member of his immediate family. (Ibid.)

The Code defines “immediate family” as being limited to the spouse and relatives within the second degree of consanguinity. Clearly, respondent’s paternal uncle does not fall under “immediate family” as herein defined. Hence, his appointment as attorney-in-fact for his uncle is not a valid exception to the rule. The Code does not qualify the prohibition. The intent of the rule is to limit a judge’s involvement in the affairs and interests of private individuals to minimize the risk of conflict with his judicial duties and to allow him to devote his undivided attention to the performance of his official functions. (Ibid.)

h. PRACTICE OF LAW AND OTHER PROFESSIONS

Rule 5.07: A judge shall not engage in the private practice of law. Unless prohibited by the Constitution or law, a judge may engage in the practice of any other profession provided that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with judicial functions.

1) No to any aspect of private practice of law

A judge may not involve himself in any activity that is an aspect of the private practice of law. His acceptance of an appointment to the Bench inhibits him from engaging in the private practice of law, regardless of the beneficiary of the activity being a member of his immediate family. He is guilty of conduct unbecoming of a judge otherwise. (Decena v. Malanyaon, A.M. No. RTJ-10-2217, 08 April 2013)

The prohibition is based on sound reasons of public policy, considering that the rights, duties, privileges and functions of the office of an attorney are inherently incompatible with the high official functions, duties, powers, discretion and privileges of a sitting judge. It also aims to ensure that judges give their full time and attention to their judicial duties, prevent them from extending favors to their own private interests, and assure the public of their impartiality in the performance of their functions. These objectives are dictated by a sense of moral decency and desire to promote the public interest. (Ibid.)

An attorney who accepts an appointment to the Bench must accept that his right to practice law as a member of the Philippine Bar is thereby suspended, and it shall continue to be so suspended for the entire period of his incumbency as a judge. The term practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases in court or to participation in court proceedings, but extends to the preparation of pleadings or papers in anticipation of a litigation, the giving of legal advice to clients or persons needing the same, the preparation of legal instruments and contracts by which legal rights are secured, and the preparation of papers incident to actions and special proceedings. (Ibid.)

1) Not even for family members

Respondent-judge occupying a seat beside his daughter that was reserved for the lawyers during the hearing. Such act displayed his presumptuousness, and probably even his clear intention to thereby exert his influence as a judge of the Regional Trial Court on the hearing officer in order for the latter to favor his wife’s cause. That impression was definitely adverse against the Judiciary, whose every judicial officer was presumed to be a subject of strict scrutiny by the public. Being an incumbent RTC Judge, he always represented the Judiciary, and should have acted with greater circumspection and self-restraint, simply because the administrative hearing was unavoidably one in which he could not but be partisan. Simple prudence should have counselled him to avoid any form of suspicion of his motives, or to suppress any impression of impropriety on his part as an RTC judge by not going to the hearing himself. (Ibid.)

Respondent-judge’s admission that his presence in that hearing was to advise his daughter on what to do and say during the hearing, to the point of coaching his daughter. In the process, he unabashedly introduced himself as the “counsel of the respondent’s counsel” upon his presence being challenged by the adverse counsel, stating that his daughter was still inexperienced for having just passed her Bar Examinations. Such excuse, seemingly grounded on a “filial” duty towards his wife and his daughter, did not furnish enough reason for him to forsake the ethical conduct expected of him as a sitting judge. He ought to have restrained himself from sitting at that hearing, being all too aware that his sitting would have him cross the line beyond which was the private practice of law. (Ibid.)

To the Court, then, respondent-judge engaged in the private practice of law by assisting his daughter at his wife’s administrative case, coaching his daughter in making manifestations or posing motions to the hearing officer, and preparing the questions that he prompted to his daughter in order to demand that Atty. Eduardo Loria, collaborating counsel of the complainants’ principal counsel, should produce his privilege tax receipt. Judge Malanyaon did so voluntarily and knowingly, in light of his unhesitating announcement during the hearing that he was the counsel for Atty. Katrina Malanyaon, the counsel of the respondent, as his response to the query by the opposing counsel why he was seated next to Atty. Malanyaon thereat. (Ibid.)

Respondent-judge’s admission that he had already engaged in the private practice of law even before the incident now the subject of this case by his statement in his comment that “it is strange for complainants to take offense at my presence and accuse me of practicing law during my stint as a judge when before the bad blood between my wife and her sibling and nephew erupted, I helped them out with their legal problems gratis et amore and they did not complain of my practicing law on their behalf.” He thereby manifested his tendencies to disregard the prohibition against the private practice of law during his incumbency on the Bench. (Ibid.)

a) Except if judge is the party-litigant

What is envisioned by “private practice” is more than an isolated court appearance, for it consists in frequent or customary action, a succession of acts of the same nature habitually or customarily holding one’s self to the public as a lawyer In herein case, save for the “Motion for Entry of Judgment,” it does not appear from the records that Judge Floro filed other pleadings or appeared in any other court proceedings in connection with his personal cases. It is safe to conclude, therefore, that Judge Floro’s act of filing the motion for entry of judgment is but an isolated case and does not in any wise constitute private practice of law. Moreover, Judge Floro is obviously not lawyering for any person in this case as he himself is the petitioner. (Office of the Court Administrator v. Floro, supra.)

i. FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE

Rule 5.08: A judge shall make full financial disclosure as required by law.

NB: This is related to SALN laws and regualtions.

Rule 5.09: A judge shall not accept appointment or designation to any agency performing quasi-judicial or administrative functions.

1) Constitutional restriction as well

Under the Constitution, the members of the Supreme Court and other courts established by law shall not be designated to any agency performing quasi- judicial or administrative functions (Section 12, Art. VIII, Constitution). (In Re: Designation of Judge Rodolfo U. Manzano as Member of the Ilocos Norte Provincial Committee on Justice, A.M. No. 88-7-1861-RTC, 05 October 1998)

a) Excludes Presidential Electoral Tribunal

Where a petitioner claimed that the PET exercises quasi-judicial functions in contravention of Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution, the Supreme Court held that it previously declared that the PET is not simply an agency to which Members of the Court were designated. Once again, the PET, as intended by the framers of the Constitution, is to be an institution independent, but not separate, from the judicial department, i.e., the Supreme Court. The vehicle for the exercise of this power, as intended by the Constitution and specifically mentioned by the Constitutional Commissioners during the discussions on the grant of power to this Court, is the PET. Thus, a microscopic view, like the petitioner’s, should not constrict an absolute and constitutional grant of judicial power. (Macalintal v. Presidential Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 191618, 23 November 2010)

j. POLITICAL ACTIVITIES

Rule 5.10: A judge is entitled to entertain personal views on political questions. But to avoid suspicion of political partisanship, a judge shall not make political speeches, contribute to party funds, publicly endorse candidates for political office or participate in other partisan political activities.

1) Presidential oath-taking, not a partisan political activity

It should be clear that the phrase “partisan political activities,” in its statutory context, relates to acts designed to cause the success or the defeat of a particular candidate or candidates who have filed certificates of candidacy to a public office in an election. The taking of an oath of office by any incoming President of the Republic before the Chief Justice of the Philippines is a traditional official function of the Highest Magistrate. The assailed presence of other justices of the Court at such an event could be no different from their appearance in such other official functions as attending the Annual State of the Nation Address by the President of the Philippines before the Legislative Department. (President Joseph Ejercito Estrada v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 169486-88, 25 November 2003)

2) Prohibited from running for office while still a judge

For having held himself out as a congressional candidate while still a member of the Bench, Respondent took advantage of his position to boost his candidacy, demeaned the stature of his office, and must be pronounced guilty of gross misconduct. (Vistan v. Nicolas, A.M. No. MTJ-87-79, 13 September 1991)

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