WE welcome recent moves by the Supreme Court to clean House.
Just this week, it found Associate Justice Ruben T. Reyes guilty of grave misconduct for leaking a draft decision and fined him P500,000.
In agreeing with the conclusions of the investigating panel, the Court said a “breach of duty amounts to breach of public trust.”
“If only for reasons of public policy, this Court must assert and maintain its jurisdiction over members of the judiciary and other officials under its supervision and control for acts performed in office which are inimical to the service and prejudicial to the interests of litigants and the general public,” the justices said.
The Court added that any release of a draft decision infringes on the confidential internal deliberations of the Court.
Earlier this month, the Court also suspended Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Evelyn Arcaya-Chua for six months for receiving P100,000 in exchange for a favorable decision, even though she returned the money and the complaint against her was dropped.
In suspending Chua, the justices said the decision by the complainant to withdraw her complaint did not prevent the Court from conducting its own investigation and disciplining erring judges.
“The office of a judge is sacred and imbued with public interest. The need to maintain the public’s confidence in the judiciary cannot be made to depend solely on the whims and caprices of complainants who are, in a real sense, only witnesses therein,” said the Court.
The Court said “most telling of all the circumstances pointing to respondent’s guilt was the ‘unwavering stance’” of a witness that Chua solicited and received P100,000 in exchange for a favorable ruling in her cases.
With public confidence already shaken by scandals in the Court of Appeals, recent efforts to clean House can only be seen as a welcome development.
We wonder, however, if what appears to be a mild sanction in the case of the regional trial court judge might be seen as a mere slap on the wrist. After all, if the Court was convinced the judge solicited money in exchange for a favorable ruling, wouldn’t that be the ultimate betrayal of the public trust?