4 judges under further probe over ‘Ma’am Arlene’

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

FOUR judges will undergo further investigation by the Court of Appeals (CA) in relation to the controversial elections of the Philippine Judges Association (PJA) in October last year, whose results were allegedly influenced by a certain Ma’am Arlene.

The Supreme Court (SC) identified them in a three-page resolution as Judge Rommel Baybay of Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 132, Judge Ralph Lee of Quezon City RTC branch 83, Judge Marino Rubia of Biñan, Laguna branch 24, and Judge Lyliha Aquino of Manila RTC branch 24.

The SC said the judges shall be investigated individually by different justices, who have 90 days from raffle to submit a report and recommendation to the Court.

A summary of preliminary findings of the investigating committee headed by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen will be distributed to the investigating CA justices for their guidance.

Pending the result of the probe, the High Court suspended Lee and Aquino as PJA president and secretary-general, respectively. Aquino was also directed to return to her old post at the Tuguegarao City (Cagayan) RTC branch 4.

"The Court further resolves that additional discussions be made on the recommendations of the (Leonen) investigating committee," the resolution read.

Reports said Ma'am Arlene, who is also linked to case fixing in the judiciary, allegedly paid for the accommodation of the judges and gave them pocket money during the PJA convention and election last October 9-10.

Separately, the SC dismissed Judge Rubia from the service for meeting with a party to the inheritance and custody cases he was handling.

He was found guilty on June 10 of gross misconduct and conduct unbecoming of the judge for dining with litigant Emilie Sison-Barias and his data encoder Eileen Pecaña in Café Juanita in the Fort in Taguig City on March 3, 2010.

During the dinner, Barias said Rubia asked her "inappropriate questions" such as whether she was connected with Philippine Airlines (PAL), her supposed involvement with another man and the hospital where she brought her husband when he suffered cardiac arrest.

Rubia said he learned this information from Noe Zarate, the opposing counsel in Barias' cases.

"These details, according to the complainant (Barias), were never discussed in the pleadings or in the course of the trial. Thus, she inferred that respondent Judge Rubia had been talking to the opposing counsel regarding these matters outside of the court proceedings. The impression of complainant was that respondent Judge Rubia was actively taking a position in favor of Atty. Zarate," the Court said, adding Rubia told Barias to talk to Zarate as he is a "nice person".

Barias also narrated several instances where Rubia has allegedly shown bias in favor of her mother-in-law, Romelias Almeda-Barias and Evelyn Tanael, the opposing parties in the cases pending before the judge’s sala.

"Respondent Judge Rubia's actions belittled the integrity required of judges in all their dealings inside and outside the courts. For these actions, respondent Judge Rubia now lost the requisite integrity, impartiality, and propriety fundamental to his office. He cannot be allowed to remain a member of the judiciary," the decision read.

The SC forfeited Rubia's retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and disqualified from reinstatement or appointment in any public office, including government-owned or-controlled corporations while Pecaña was slapped with one-year suspension. (Sunnex)

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