The Supreme Court (SC) has sacked a Makati City judge convicted by the Sandiganbayan in 2013 of graft and malversation for conspiring with a police officer to facilitate the withdrawal of P1 million in public funds when he was still mayor of Dapitan City.
In a 15-page per curiam decision dated February 2, 2016, the SC meted
Judge Joseph Cedrick Ruiz of the Regional Trial Court Branch 61 the severe penalty of disbarment.
The SC en banc also ordered the forfeiture of all benefits, except the judge’s accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government including government-owned and -controlled corporations.
“Considering the nature and extent of the respondent’s transgressions, we find the imposition of the supreme administrative penalty of dismissal to be appropriate,” the High Court stressed.
“We emphasize that judges should be the embodiment of competence, integrity, and independence, and their conduct should be above reproach. They must adhere to exacting standards of morality, decency, and probity. A magistrate is judged, not only by his official acts, but also by his private morality and actions,” it added.
The administrative case originated from the complaint filed by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), which, based on Ruiz’s conviction, recommended to the High Court that Ruiz be administratively charged and suspended without pay.
Ruiz was convicted by the Sandiganbayan’s First Division. He was sanctioned with fine and imprisonment, and perpetual disqualification. The judge appealed his conviction at the SC.
The high tribunal opined that Ruiz’s denial does not hold water against the positive declarations of the prosecution witnesses, which are supported by documents.
The high court also noted that Ruiz failed to substantiate his claim that the charges against him were politically motivated.
There were evidence presented that Ruiz actively worked for the approval of the P1 million cash advance from the Central Intelligence Fund (CIF) allotted for the Mayor’s Office; that he facilitated the withdrawal of the P1 million by Inspector Pepe Nortal and that he received and used the money for his personal benefit.
In addition, the 15-man tribunal also junked his contention that the present administrative case against him is premature because his criminal conviction by the Sandiganbayan are not yet final. It stressed that Ruiz was placed under preventive suspension because he was alleged to have committed transgressions that are classified as serious under Sec. 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court.