Monday, March 26, 2012

De La Cruz vs. Concepcion [A.M. No. RTJ-93-1062 August 25, 1994]

Facts: Respondent Judge Crisanto C. Concepcion of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 12, Malolos, Bulacan, was administratively indicted for gross ignorance of the law and knowingly rendering an unjust judgment for acquitting the accused who was charged before his court with acts of lasciviousness. 

Eliza Ratilla de la Cruz, Edeline Cuison, Ana Maria Cruz, and Lolita Santiago filed a case against the accused for acts of lasciviousness. The accused Loreto Estrella, Jr., summoned the victims and told them that he need to examine their private parts pursuant to a DECS memorandum. 

During the hearing, the four girls gave almost identical experience. The accused on his part admitted that indeed he made such examination; however denied that he touched the private parts of the girl. Moreover, he argued that he only did such in compliance with the DECS order. 

Upon hearing the prosecution and the defense, respondent Judge observed that the girls consented, without any force employed upon them. The Judged reasoned out that it is inconceivable that the girls did not make any objections if indeed their private parts were touched with lust on the mind of the couch. Thus, Respondent Judge arrived on the conclusion that since the touching was necessary in the examination required by the memorandum, no acts of lasciviousness can be attributed to the accused. 

Issue: Whether or not the analysis of the Judge constitutes Gross Ignorance of the law and against the Canon 5 of The Code of Professional Responsibility

HeldTo constitute gross ignorance of the law, the subject decision, order or actuation of the judge in the performance of his official duties must not only be contrary to existing law and jurisprudence but, most importantly, he must be moved by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption. 

In the case at bar, no bad faith nor malice may be imputed against the respondent judge. More so, wrong appreciation of evidence cannot be a ground for gross ignorance of the law. The court held that if we hold respondent guilty as charged, then we might be telegraphing the wrong signals to our trial judges. For then, where administrative sanctions are imposed on them for rendering judgments of acquittal based on reasonable doubt or on difficult questions of law, they would be inclined, and not without practical reason, to hand down verdicts of conviction, in case of doubt. For that course would be safer for them to pursue since, after all, erroneous convictions may still be corrected on appeal. But that would be disregarding the true concept and judicial implication of "reasonable doubt" in criminal cases, under which judges are directed according to the Rules of Court to render a judgment of acquittal. 

As such, the reiterate that "mere errors in the appreciation of evidence, unless so gross and patent as to produce an inference of ignorance or bad faith, or that the judge knowingly rendered an unjust decision, are irrelevant and immaterial in an administrative proceeding against him. Therefore, respondent judge was acquitted for the case charged.

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