‘Inefficient’ judge penalized

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HE was found to be inefficient and ignorant of the law on the day that he retired.

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The Supreme Court found a judge in La Union guilty of gross inefficiency and gross ignorance of the law for deciding on certain cases on the day when his compulsory retirement took effect in 2006.

In the ruling penned by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the SC’s Second Division slapped on Judge Santiago Soriano a fine of P40,000 “to be taken from the amount withheld from his retirement benefits.”

Soriano’s case arose after the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) conducted a judicial audit and inventory of pending cases in the MTCC, Branch 2, San Fernando City, La Union and in the MTC, Naguilian, La Union.

The audit team found that out of the 59 cases submitted for decision in the MTCC, Branch 2, San Fernando City, La Union, 57 cases were already beyond the reglementary period to decide.

A similar finding was made in the MTC, Naguilian, La Union wherein 39 out of 41 cases submitted for decision, were already beyond the period to rule.

The OCA then directed Judge Soriano to decide the remaining unresolved cases and to resolve the pending motions or incidents in the other cases.

However, Judge Soriano still failed to decide a total of 36 cases submitted for decision in the MTC and MTCC combined, which were already all due for decision at the time he retired on July 25, 2006.

In the ruling, the court held that Soriano “has been remiss in the performance of his judicial duties.”

“Judge Soriano’s unreasonable delay in deciding cases and resolving incidents and motions, and his failure to decide the remaining cases before his compulsory retirement constitutes gross inefficiency which cannot be tolerated.”

As held in numerous cases, the SC said, “inexcusable failure to decide cases within the reglementary period constitutes gross inefficiency, warranting the imposition of an administrative sanction on the defaulting judge.”

“Judge Soriano’s inefficiency in managing his caseload was compounded by gross negligence as evinced by the loss of the records of at least four cases which could no longer be located or reconstituted despite diligent efforts by his successor. Judge Soriano was responsible for managing his court efficiently to ensure the prompt delivery of court services, especially the speedy disposition of cases,” the ruling pointed out.

Under Rule 3.08,Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge ismandated to diligently discharge administrative responsibilities and maintain professional competence in court management.

Furthermore, a judge should organize and supervise the court personnel to ensure the prompt and efficient dispatch of business, and require at alltimes the observance of high standards of public service and fidelity.

The court found Soriano guilty of gross ignorance of the law for deciding 12 cases on July 25, 2006, which was the day his compulsory retirement took effect.

Section11, Article VIII of the Constitution states that judges shall hold office during good behavior until they reach the age of 70 or become too incapacitated to discharge the duties of their office.

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