378 Phil. 924
"IN THE LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING, the Court RESOLVES as follows:Respondent Judge Jose R. Panday filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated August 15, 1997seeking a partial reconsideration by: a.] absolving him from the charges of immorality and obstruction of justice; b.] dismissing the same for utter lack of merit; c.] lifting his preventive suspension, and d.] reinstating him to his position as presiding judge of Branch 27 of the RTC of Camarines Sur, or, in the alternative, to consider him retired from the service with all his retirement benefits and accrued leaves intact including the removal of the ban on his employment in any branch or instrumentality of the government-owned and controlled corporations.
1. Judge Jose R. Panday is found administratively liable for immorality and obstruction of justice. Accordingly, he is DISMISSED from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and accrued leaves, and with prejudice to reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations.
2. Judge Rica H. Lacson is found administratively liable for engaging in notarial services in connection with cases unrelated to her official functions as municipal judge of Sorsogon. Accordingly, she is meted a FINE of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) with warning that a repetition by her of similar acts will be dealt with more severely.
3. Judge Simon D. Encinas is found administratively liable for improper conduct or conduct unbecoming a judge. Accordingly, he is meted a FINE of Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) with warning that a repetition of similar acts of impropriety on his part will be dealt with more severely.
Acting on the Motion for Reconsideration of the decision of July 21, 1997, filed by counsel for respondent Judge Simon D. Encinas, dated September 20, 1997, the Court resolved to DENY with FINALITY the aforesaid motion for reconsideration, as the basic issues raised therein have been passed upon by the Court in its questioned decision and no substantial arguments were presented to warrant its reversal.the Court will concentrate on the motion of respondent Judge Panday.
... [t]he testimonies of Wilfredo Bolalin, Domingo Pasibe and Delia Cea to the effect that they did not see judge Panday at the Tigaon pension house on 24 July 1994 constitute negative testimonies which can not prevail over Cecile's positive testimony that she was there with him on said date. Testimony is negative when the witness states that he did not see or know the occurrence of a fact and positive when the witness affirms that a fact did or did not occur. A positive testimony, such as Cecile's is stronger than a negative one. The former has more value than the latter for the reason that he who denies a certain fact may both remember exactly the circumstances on which he bases his denial.Testimony is affirmative or positive if it consists of statements as to what the witness heard or seen. It is negative if the witness states that he did not hear or did not see the phenomenon in question. The Court has held in at least two (2) cases that the testimony of a credible witness that he saw or heard a particular thing at a particular time and place is more reliable than that of a witness who with the same opportunities, testified that he did not hear or see the same thing at the same time and place. Moreover, the positive testimony of a single witness is entitled to more weight and credence than the testimony of several witnesses who testified in the negative or to collateral matters. Thus, in People v. Tibayan, the sister of the victim testified that she and her father saw the accused shoot her brother to death while a farmer and his mother testified for the defense that they were near the scene of the crime; that they did not see the sister of the victim and her father; and that they neither saw the accused and his companions. In affirming the judgment of conviction, the Court held that the negative testimony of the farmer and his mother is not conclusive proof that the accused did not shoot the victim nor does it completely belie the sister's testimony that she and her father witnessed the shooting.
Delia Cea's claim that based on their logbook for July 1994, no one checked in at Bodega Tigaon on 24 July 1994, cannot be relied upon by Judge Panday to support his denial. Cea herself admitted, in response to the clarificatory questions of the Investigating Justice, that there were occasions when the names of the customers of the pension house were not recorded in the logbook upon request of the customers themselves:
Are you saying that there were times when you did not follow the instructions of the owner of the pension house?
No, Sir, I usually follow the Instructions but there are times the customers request to me not to sign their names anymore since they knew each other anyway.
Is it also possible that, or where (sic) there instances where the customers request you that they will not be required to sign anymore because the girl[s] that they are with are not their wives?
So there were customers who would like their identities to be unknown, not to be recorded and sometimes you acceded to the request, is that correct?
Yes, your Honor.
Hence, the fact that Judge Panday's name was not recorded in the logbook kept by the Tigaon pension house does not prove that he was not there on 24 July 1994. As it was, the logbook failed to negate Cecile's testimony that she was there with Judge Panday and that they had sexual intercourse in Room 6 thereof in the afternoon of 24 July 1994.
... [a]s correctly asserted by the Investigating Justice, Cecile's false or erroneous claim that she was raped by Judge Panday does not render her entire testimony unworthy of credence. The Court is not compelled to reject the entire testimony of a witness if it finds portions thereof to be incredible. Like trial courts in criminal proceedings, the Investigating Justice tasked by the Court to investigate the present Administrative Matter had the discretion to accept portions of the testimony of a witness as he deemed credible and reject those which he believed to be false. The maxim falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus is not a positive rule of law and is in fact rarely applied in modern jurisprudence. Before this maxim can be applied, the witness must be shown to have willfully falsified the truth on one or more material points. Even then, where he is found to have done so, this does not make his entire testimony totally incredible. The Court, or the Investigating Justice in this case, may still admit and credit those portions worthy of belief depending upon the corroborative evidence and the probabilities and improbabilities of the case.The postulate of respondent judge that the credible portions of the witness' testimony that may be believed are "ONLY those which are corroborated by other evidence" must likewise be rejected because in addition to ‘corroborative evidence' is the qualifier "and the probabilities and Improbabilities of the case." It need not be overemphasized that, given the peculiar facts prevailing in this case, the probability that respondent judge committed the act complained of far outweighs its improbability. This is further circumscribed by the oft-repeated rule that witnesses are weighed not numbered and testimony of a single witness may suffice for conviction if otherwise trustworthy and reliable.
SEC. 5. Child prostitution and other sexual abuses. - Children whether male or female, who for money, profit or any other consideration or due to the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group, indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be children exploited in prostitution and other sexual abuse.In relation to the foregoing, Article I, Section 3 (a) of the same law defines ‘children’ as those "[p]ersons below eighteen (18) years of age or those over but are unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability." In this case, Cecile Buenafe was fifteen (15) years old at that time, a third-year high school student in San Ramon, Lagonoy, Camarines Sur and of lowly station in life. Needless to state, her case falls within the purview of RA No. 7610.
Only recently, the Court restated in Atty. Lauro D. Gacayan, et al. v. Hon Fernando Vil Pamintuan the reminder in the assailed Decision that:
Rule 2.00: A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.
Rule 2.01: A judge should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
‘[A] judge's official conduct should be free from the appearance of impropriety, and his personal behavior, not only upon the bench should and in the performance of judicial duties, but also his everyday life should be beyond reproach.’ Thus, the Court in taking the respondent to task in Sarah B. Vedana v. Judge Eudarlo B. Valencia minced no words when it said:At the risk of sounding trite, the Court once again reminds all those who don judicial robes to maintain good moral character and at all times observe irreproachable behavior so as not to outrage public decency.
... his being a public official, holding a position in the Judiciary and specifically entrusted with the sacred duty of administering justice, breached Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Canon 3 of the Canons of Judicial ethics which mandates respectively, that ‘a judge should avoid impropriety in all activities', and that 'a judge's official conduct should be free from the appearance of impropriety, and his personal behavior, not only upon the bench and in the performance of judicial duties, but also in everyday life, should be beyond reproach.’ These most exacting standards of decorum are demanded from magistrates if only, in the language of Rule 2.01 of Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, to 'promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.’
The spirit and philosophy underlying these Canons is bast expressed in Castillo v. Calanog thus:
The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free of a whiff of impropriety not only with respect to his performance of his judicial duties, but also to his behavior outside his sala and as a private individual. There is no dichotomy of morality; a public official is also judged by his private morals. The Code dictates that a judge, in order to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, must behave with propriety at all times. As we have very recently explained, a judge's official life can not simply be detached or separated from his personal existence. thus:
Being a subject of constant public scrutiny, a judge should freely and willingly accept restrictions on conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.
A judge should personify judicial integrity and exemplify honest public service. The personal behavior of a judge, both in the performance of official duties and in private life should be above suspicion.
Verily, no position is more demanding as regards moral righteousness and uprightness of any individual than a seat on the Bench. Within the hierarchy of courts, trial courts stand as an important and visible symbol of government, especially considering that as opposed to appellate courts, trial judges are those directly in contact with the parties, their counsel and the communities which the judiciary is bound to serve. Occupying as he does an exalted position in the administration of justice, a judge must pay a high price for the honor bestowed upon him. Thus, the judge must comport himself at all times in such manner that his conduct, official or otherwise, can bear the most searching scrutiny of the public that looks up to him as the epitome of integrity and justice. In insulating the Bench from the unwarranted criticism, thus preserving our democratic way of life, it is essential that judges, life Caesar's wife, should be above suspicion."
...It is settled that alibi is the weakest of all defenses. It cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused by the witnesses who have no ill motive to testify falsely. Alibi becomes less plausible when it is corroborated by relatives and friends who may not be impartial witnesses. More so when the corroborating testimonies are marred by discrepancies.Respondent judge finally brands the charge of obstruction of justice as "an extortion attempt gone awry" bewailing the Court's "expressed inability ...to believe that ‘Regino would use his daughter Cecile for such an ignoble purpose, especially if it will subject her to embarassrnent and even stigma" saying that it "does not reflect [the] reality of the times."
"...[t]he evidence on record shows that Panday and Cecile were complete strangers to each other when they met in the afternoon of July 24, 1994. There is no morsel of evidence on record, and Panday adduced none, to prove that Cecile had any ill or devious motive to concoct the charge against Panday and tergiversate her testimony. Cecile was just a third year high school student. She was made to believe by Panday that he was a Judge. Considering her youth and her lowly station in life, she would not have dared concoct and fabricate her claim that it was Panday, a Judge no less, who had sexual intercourse with her in the Tigaon Bodega unless it was true. It cannot be denied that, despite intermittent assaults by media against the judiciary, the Judges, in the province, are still looked upon with awe and respect by the citizenry by virtue of their lofty positions in government. We cannot believe that Cecile could muster courage to implicate Panday, a Judge no less, unless her claims were true. Absent any ill motive, the testimony of Cecile that it was Panday who had intercourse with her must be accorded credence and full probative weight."The presumption is that witnesses are not actuated by any improper motive absent any proof to the contrary and that their testimonies must accordingly be met with considerable, if not conclusive, favor under the rules of evidence because it is not expected that said witnesses would prevaricate and cause the damnation of one who brought them no harm or injury.
The same thing can be said of Regino, Cecile's father, and his testimony regarding Judge Panday's attempt to settle the case by offering him the sum of one hundred fifty thousand pesos (P150,00.00). Judge Panday alleges that Regino, along with Cecile and certain members of the Lagonoy PNP, concocted the charges against him to extort money from him knowing that he is about to retire from government service and receive his retirement benefits. This allegation is too far-fetched and improbable. The Investigating Justice pointed out correctly that Regino is a mere passenger jeepney driver while his daughter is just a third year high school student. It was not shown that they were even aware that Judge Panday is due to retire from government service or that they know how much he is to receive by way of retirement benefits.
"Moreover, Anita Panlilio’s denial of her participation in brokering the agreement between Judge Panday and Regino cannot prevail over Regino’s positive and categorical testimony. In fine, Judge Panday has failed to convincingly show any ill-motive on the part of Cecile and Regino to testify and to impute to him such charges.
SECTION 1. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period, or a fine ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 pesos or both, shall be imposed upon any person who knowingly or wilfully obstructs, impedes, frustrates or delays the apprehension of suspects and the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases by committing any of the following acts:All told, the Court remains convinced that respondent judge's penalty is commensurate to his misdeed.
(a) preventing witnesses from testifying in any criminal proceeding or from reporting the commission of any offense or the identity of any offender/s by means of bribery, misrepresentation, deceit, intimidation force or threats; xxx