A judge who figured in the 2013 elections of the Philippine Judges
Association (PJA) that resulted in the “Ma’am Arlene” controversy has been ordered dismissed from the service by the Supreme Court (SC).
Intrigues about “Ma’am Arlene,” the alleged fixer in the judiciary, were said to have been sown by a group of judges who lost in the PJA elections.
In a 32-page per curiam decision dated June 10, 2014, the High Court ordered the dismissal of Judge Marino Rubia of Biñan, Laguna Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 24 for gross violations of the New Code of Judicial Conduct.
“Respondent Judge Marino Rubia is hereby dismissed from the service, with corresponding forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and disqualified from reinstatement or appointment in any public office, including government-owned or -controlled corporations,” the court’s ruling stated.
Rubia was also ordered to cease and desist from discharging the functions of his office upon receipt of the ruling.
The SC also imposed a one-year suspension against Eileen Pecana, data encoder of Biñan, Laguna RTC, for violations of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel.
In axing Rubia, it was acting on an administrative complaint filed by Emilie Sison-Barias, who had three cases concerning the estate of her late husband pending before the sala of Rubia.
Barias lodged the complaint before the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) on November 11, 2010 where she accused Rubia of conduct unbecoming a judge, partiality, gross ignorance of the law and incompetence.
She also accused Pecana of gross misconduct.
In her complaint, Barias revealed that she had a dinner meeting with the respondents in a restaurant at The Fort, Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City (Metro Manila) on March 3, 2010 where they discussed her pending cases.
During the meeting, the widow felt that Rubia was taking a position in favor of prosecution lawyer Noe Zarate, even advising her to just talk to Zarate because the lawyer is a nice person.
Also during the meeting, Rubia allegedly asked Barias questions not related to her pending cases, including her supposed involvement with another man, her being connected with a leading airline in the country and the hospital where she brought her husband when he suffered cardiac arrest.
According to the complainant, those details were never mentioned in the pleadings or during the trial, thus, making her assume that Rubia was talking to the opposing counsel outside court proceedings.
Barias cited several instances where Rubia allegedly showed bias in favor of her mother-in-law, Romelias Almeda-Barias, and Evelyn Tanael, the opposing parties in the cases she filed before the Binan RTC.
According to her , among the instances where the judge showed partiality was when “Rubia failed to require a timely filing of the pre-trial brief on the part of Evelyn Tanael and Romelias Almeda-Barias, and despite their non-compliance on four separate pre-trials that were postponed, Tanael and Almeda-Barias were not declared in default.”
Due to the gravity of the charges, however, the OCA recommended that the case be referred to a Court of Appeals justice.
The suggestion was approved by the High Tribunal on September 12, 2011 and the complaint was presented to CA Justice Samuel Gaerlan.
Gaerlan, in his investigation report dated March 13, 2012, recommended that the respondents, Rubia and Pecana, should not be held administratively liable as he was convinced that the meeting of complainant and respondents at Burgos Circle was “just a chance encounter” and that Barias has failed to present substantial evidence to prove her allegations.
He noted that it had taken Barias eight months before she filed the administrative complaint.
The High Tribunal, however, rejected Gaerlan’s report, deciding to hold Rubia and Pecana administratively liable.
The court en banc gave more weight to Barias’ testimony and to her narration of the dinner meeting that was supported by the exchange of text messages between Barias and Pecana.
According to the SC, “Pecana’s actions amount to violations of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel” when she admitted to meeting with complainant several times, thus allowing herself to be placed in a position that could cause suspicion toward her work as a court personnel.
On Rubia, the court was convinced that he had committed gross violations of the New Code of Judicial Conduct by meeting a litigant and advising her to talk to opposing counsel.
It castigated Rubia for his failure to admonish or discipline Pecana after he was informed of the latter’s interactions with a litigant.
On the allegations of Barias against the orders of Rubia in her pending cases, the High Court ruled that the complainant “should resort to appropriate judicial remedies.”
The SC’s ruling is immediately executory.
Rubia, who ran as Executive Vice President of the PJA but lost to Makati RTC Judge Eugene Paras by only four votes, has lodged a civil complaint before the Manila Regional Trial Court contesting the result of the elections because of alleged irregularities.
A separate probe of the “Ma’am Arlene” controversy is being conducted by the SC.