The Supreme Court (SC) through the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA)warned judges and court personnel to be “cautious and circumspect” in their use of social media.
SC Administrator Jose Midas Marquez issued a circular on Thursday stressing that “[a]s the visible personification of law and justice, judges and court employees have a higher standard of conduct.”
“It has been observed that some judges and court personnel have been taking active part in social networking sites by sharing personal photographs and updates and posting their views and comments on certain issues and current events. While judges and court personnel are not prohibited from engaging in social media, they are reminded that when they do, they do not thereby shed off their status as members of the judiciary,’” Marquez stated.
The OCA head cited the words of the high court in an administrative case in 2014.
“Using a social networking site, e.g., Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, is an exercise of the freedom of expression; however, there are restrictions upon a judge’s conduct inherent in public office.”
He also cited Section 6, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct which provides that in the exercise of freedom of expression, judges and court personnel “shall always conduct themselves in a manner as to preserve the dignity of the judicial office and the impartiality and independence of the judiciary.”
“All told, judges and court personnel who participate in social media are enjoined to be cautious and circumspect in posting photographs, liking posts and making comments in public on social networking sites, for ‘public confidence in the judiciary (may be) eroded by their irresponsible or improper conduct,’” the circular read.
The order covers judges and court personnel of the first and second level courts.
The first level courts include the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Circuit Trial Courts and Shari’a Circuit Courts.
In the second level courts are the Regional Trial Courts and Shari’a District Courts.
It was pointed out that while it may be acceptable to be “sharing” and “liking” posts, posting photographs and commentaries, however, this may not be considered true for SC judges and employees, members of the judiciary “due to the higher standard of integrity, candor and fairness reposed in them.”
“[I]n communicating and socializing through social networks, judges must bear in mind that what they communicate — regardless of whether it is a personal matter or part of his or her judicial duties — creates and contributes to the people’s opinion not just of the judge but of the entire judiciary of which he or she is a part,” the circular pointed out.
“This is especially true when the posts the judges make are viewable not only by their family and close friends, but also by their acquaintances and the general public.”