THE high court dismissed the judge of a Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) in Surigao Del Norte who was caught on video wielding an M-16 armalite rifle and found to have a child from an extra-marital affair.
In a 21-page unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court found Judge Exequil Dagala of the MCTC, Dapa-Socorro in Dapa town guilty of immorality and gross misconduct and ordered his perpetual disqualification from re-employment in all public offices.
The Court also ordered the forfeiture of his retirement and other benefits except accrued leave credits.
The case stemmed from an anonymous letter-complaint sent to the Office of Ombudsman in 2015 by a resident of Barangay San Isidro in Siargao Island who had witnessed the altercation between Dagala and his neighbor over the ownership of a neighbor’s lot. The incident was recorded by one of his neighbors showing Dagala shouting invectives while brandishing an M-16 armalite rifle on September 29, 2015.
Dagala confirmed that he is separated from his wife and “without any remorse” has three children with three different women.
However, he denied involvement in other illegal activities but admitted to owning Sugba Cockpit in Del Carmen also in Surigao del Norte which rights he allegedly sold in 2008.
In 2016, he submitted a letter of resignation but the high court rejected it pending investigation of the complaint against him.
The court affirmed the findings of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) that there was sufficient evidence to hold Dagala accountable for gross misconduct in connection with the armalite-wielding incident, made worse by the fact that he was neither licensed to own nor had a permit to carry the firearm.
It was underscored that Dagala’s actuations as recorded on video “are unacceptable for a member of the bench and should merit a finding of administrative liability.”
The same decision found Dagala guilty of immorality for siring a child out of wedlock during the subsistence of his marriage. A certificate of live birth showed Dagala’s signature in the affidavit of acknowledgement of paternity and the child was born while he was still married to his legal wife.
The SC ruled that immorality is a recognized ground for the discipline of judges and justices under the Rules of Court.