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2. Voluntary

a. VOLUNTARY DISQUALIFICATION

A judge may, in the exercise of his sound discretion, disqualify himself from sitting in a case, for just or valid reasons other than those mentioned above. (Paragraph 2, Section 1, Rule 137, Rules of Court)

For voluntary inhibition, whether or not the judge can sit in and try the case is left to his discretion, depending on the existence of just and valid reasons not included in compulsory disqualification, but in exercising the discretion, he must rely only on his conscience. (Bilbao v. People, supra.)

1) Proof or basis required

The mere imputation of bias or partiality is not enough ground for inhibition, especially when the charge is without basis. Extrinsic evidence must further be presented to establish bias, bad faith, malice, or corrupt purpose, in addition to palpable error which may be inferred from the decision or order itself. This Court has to be shown acts or conduct of the judge clearly indicative of arbitrariness or prejudice before the latter can be branded the stigma of being biased or partial. (Ramiscal v. Hernandez, supra.)

An allegation of prejudgment, without more, constitutes mere conjecture and is not one of the “just or valid reasons” contemplated under voluntary disqualification for which a judge may inhibit himself from hearing the case. The bare allegations of the judge’s partiality, as in this case, will not suffice in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that the judge will undertake his noble role of dispensing justice in accordance with law and evidence, and without fear or favor. Verily, for bias and prejudice to be considered valid reasons for the involuntary inhibition of judges, mere suspicion is not enough. (Ibid.)

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