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2. Integrity

Canon 2: Integrity

Integrity is essential not only to the proper discharge of the judicial office but also to the personal demeanor of judges.

1) Integrity at all times

Integrity has, at all times, been stressed to be one of the required qualifications of a judge..(Republic of the Philippines v. Sereno, G.R. No. 237428, 11 May 2018)

While every public office in the government is a public trust, no position exacts a greater demand on moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual than a seat in the judiciary. (Dela Cruz v. Bersamira, A.M. No. RTJ-00-1567, 19 January 2001)

In our jurisdiction, one cannot be qualified to be a member of the Judiciary, lacking such mandatory requirement of “proven integrity”. Inevitably, an appointee to the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court must be the exemplar of honesty, probity and integrity. The purpose of this requirement is self-evident as the Chief Justice heads the Judiciary and adjudicates cases as a member of the Court that “has the last word on what the law is.” Together with other Justices, the Chief Justice also disciplines members of the Bar for misconduct. The significance of probity and integrity as a requirement for appointment to the Judiciary is underscored by the fact that such qualifications are not explicitly required of the President, the Vice-President or the Members of Congress under the Constitution. The Constitution, thus, demands in no uncertain terms that the Chief Justice be the embodiment of moral and ethical principles. He or she must be of unquestionable character, possessed of moral authority to demand obedience to the law and to impose a rule of conduct. Indeed, one who exacts compliance with the law and ethical standards should be their foremost adherent. (Republic of the Philippines v. Sereno, supra.)

2) Beyond reproach

We have repeatedly admonished our judges to adhere to the highest tenets of judicial conduct. They must be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence. Like Caesar’s wife, a judge must not only be pure but above suspicion. This is not without reason. The exacting standards of conduct demanded from judges are designed to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary because the people’s confidence in the judicial system is founded not only on the magnitude of legal knowledge and the diligence of the members of the bench, but also on the highest standard of integrity and moral uprightness they are expected to possess. When the judge himself becomes the transgressor of any law which he is sworn to apply, he places his office in disrepute, encourages disrespect for the law and impairs public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary itself. It is therefore paramount that a judge’s personal behavior both in the performance of his duties and his daily life, be free from any appearance of impropriety as to be beyond reproach. (Tan v. Rosete, supra.)

3) Concealment prior to application and appointment

Respondent-judge was dismissed from the service for gross misrepresentation. He concealed from the appointing authority, at the time he applied for the judicial post until his appointment, information regarding the criminal charges for homicide and attempted homicide filed against him. (Office of the Court Administrator v. Estacion, supra.)

No amount of circumlocution can wash away the fact that respondent-judge was dismissed from the public service and that he purposely did not disclose this dismissal when he accomplished the bio-data form required by the Judicial and Bar Council. By such non-disclosure, the Council was led to believe, on the strength of his (mis)representations, that he had a clean record and was not disqualified from appointment to the Judiciary. The circumstance that his dismissal was without prejudice is not material, and neither is his subsequent appointment to a municipal position. (Ibid.)

Section 1: Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer.

1) Extends to personal life

By the very nature of the bench, judges, more than the average man, are required to observe an exacting standard of morality and decency. The character of a judge is perceived by the people not only through his official acts but also through his private morals as reflected in his external behavior. It is therefore paramount that a judge’s personal behavior both in the performance of his duties and his daily life, be free from the appearance of impropriety as to be beyond reproach. (Dela Cruz v. Bersamira, supra.)

The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free of a whiff of impropriety not only with respect to his performance of his judicial duties, but also to his behavior outside his sala as a private individual. There is no dichotomy of morality: a public official is also judged by his private morals. The Code dictates that a judge, in order to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, must behave with propriety at all times. (Sison-Barias v. Rubia, En Banc, A.M. No. RTJ-14-2388, 10 June 2014)

By his own admissions, Judge Dinopol failed to observe these ethical standards. In his Answer/Comment, Judge Dinopol admitted that he talked with Sy (a party-litigant) on several occasions to discuss Misc. Case No. 1440-24.33 Judge Dinopol also admitted that Sy, in at least two instances, requested him to delay the resolution of the writ of possession.Judge Dinopol’s actions no doubt created the inference that at some point, he acceded to Sy’s requests to delay the proceedings. This conclusion, is in fact, bolstered by Judge Dinopol’s knowledge that the counsel for Metrobank was instructed to immediately secure the order for the issuance of the writ of possession. Regardless of the representations allegedly made to him by Sy, Judge Dinopol should have immediately issued the writ of possession in Metrobank’s favor. (Sy v. Dinopol, En Banc, A.M. No. RTJ-09-2189, 18 January 2011)

2) Avoid appearances of transacting with party-litigants

The commodity loans were evidenced by receipts indicating delivery of construction materials to Judge Dinopol’s residence. The cash loans appear to have been covered by disbursement vouchers, and the borrowed multicab is the subject of an “acknowledgement” from Judge Dinopol’s driver Rogelio Villanueva. (Ibid.)

There is substantial evidence showing that Judge Dinopol obtained the commodity loans from Sy (a party-litigant). The judge himself admitted that he wrote Sy, on March 4, 2005, regarding the purchase of materials for his house which was then under construction, although he claimed that it was his wife who transacted with Sy and it was Sy himself who offered to deliver the materials to his residence. Judge Dinopol pleaded innocence regarding the commodity loans or even the cash loans saying that the transaction with Sy regarding the construction materials occurred when there was no case pending in his sala where Sy was a party. (Ibid.)

Section 2: The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the people’s faith in the integrity of the judiciary. Justice must not merely be done but must also be seen to be done.

1) Judicial decorum

Judicial decorum requires a magistrate to be at all times temperate in his language, refraining from inflammatory or excessive rhetoric or from resorting “to language of vilification.” (Guanzon v. Rufon, En Banc, A.M. No. RTJ-07-2038, 19 October 2007)

It is an important judicial norm that a judge’s private as well as official conduct must at all times be free from the appearance of impropriety. (Ibid.)

a) No colorful language

Complainant was shocked when respondent-judge, inside the court with so many people present, said to her “next time you see your husband, open your arms and legs.” She felt humiliated and insulted, and was glad that the hearing did not proceed because the respondent in the case was not present. The judge was found guilty of vulgar and unbecoming conduct. (Ibid.)

2) Possess virtue of gravitas

A judge should always conduct himself in a manner that would preserve the dignity, independence and respect for himself/herself, the Court and the Judiciary as a whole. He must exhibit the hallmark judicial temperament of utmost sobriety and self-restraint. He should choose his words and exercise more caution and control in expressing himself. In other words, a judge should possess the virtue of gravitas. (Lorenzana v. Austria, A.M. No. RTJ-092200, 02 April 2014)

A judge should be considerate, courteous and civil to all persons who come to his court; he should always keep his passion guarded. He can never allow it to run loose and overcome his reason. Furthermore, a magistrate should not descend to the level of a sharp-tongued, ill-mannered petty tyrant by uttering harsh words, snide remarks and sarcastic comments. (Ibid.)

Judges are required to always be temperate, patient and courteous, both in conduct and in language. (Ibid.)

3) Frailty, not a defense

Although respondent judge may attribute his intemperate language to human frailty, his noble position in the bench nevertheless demands from him courteous speech in and out of court. (Guanzon v. Rufon, En Banc, supra.)

Section 3: Judges should take or initiate appropriate disciplinary measures against lawyers or court personnel for unprofessional conduct of which the judge may have become aware.

1) As administrators of courts

Judges are authorized under Rule 3.10 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. However, 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. (Tan v. Paredes, A.M. No. P-04-1789, 22 July 2005)

a) No to fighting among court employees

Fighting between court employees during office hours is a disgraceful behavior reflecting adversely on the good image of the judiciary. Professionalism, respect for the rights of others, good manners and right conduct are expected of all judicial officers and employees. Thus, all employees are required to preserve the judiciary’s good name and standing as a true temple of justice. (Ibid.)

In announcing in different radio stations the incident concerning Sheriff Paredes’ suspension, respondent-judge has contributed to the erosion of the public’s confidence in the judiciary. Further, the records show that Sheriff Paredes suffered a swollen left face resulting from Judge Tan’s boxing the latter and thus should be held liable. (Ibid.)

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