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478 Phil. 1

THIRD DIVISION

[ A.M. No. RTJ- 01-1655, July 08, 2004 ]

ATTY. GRACE M. VELOSO AND MA. JOEYLYNN B. QUIÑONES, COMPLAINANTS, VS. JUDGE ANACLETO M. CAMINADE, RTC, BRANCH 6, CEBU CITY, RESPONDENT.

R E S O L U T I O N

CORONA, J.:

Before this Court is an administrative complaint for sexual harassment separately filed by Atty. Grace Veloso and Ma. Joeylynn Quiñones against Judge Anacleto M. Caminade of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 6.

Atty. Veloso, a lawyer of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) assigned to the RTC branch presided by Judge Caminade, alleged in her affidavit that, on March 9, 2001, she went to the court to check on her work schedule for the following week.  Judge Caminade was then having a conversation with two men at the lawyer’s table.  She was about to leave when Judge Caminade asked her to join them.  She acceded to respondent’s request as she considered him as her superior.  After a few minutes, the two men and Atty. Veloso rose to leave but the judge told her to stay behind because they needed to discuss a case.  Judge Caminade then ushered her to his chambers.  She was made to sit on the visitor’s chair which was just a foot away from where the judge sat. 

While discussing the case, she was stunned when Judge Caminade suddenly placed his hand on her right thigh and squeezed it.  He then took her hand and kissed it.  She immediately stood up and headed towards the door leading to the staff room.  He, however, caught up with her and placed his hand on her shoulder.  Before she could open the door, Judge Caminade told her “Kiss ko bi” (Let me kiss you).  Atty. Veloso, who was so shocked, retorted “Kalood nimo Judge uy” (You are so disgusting, Judge).  She then opened the door and went out of his chambers.

At the staff room, respondent judge, acting as if nothing happened, ordered his researcher to show her certain court records.  Although she was trembling, she pretended to look at the records then ran out of the staff room and cried.

On March 12, 2001, Atty. Veloso sent a letter to Judge Caminade informing him of her decision not to appear in his court again as resident PAO lawyer.  She was thereafter assigned to another branch of the court.

In his comment dated April 25, 2001, respondent judge averred that, after the court session on March 9, 2001, Atty. Veloso entered his chambers to discuss a case she was handling.  Inside the chambers were Atty. Myrna Valderrama-Limbaga, branch clerk of court, and Mr. Othello Capangpangan, a court employee.  After discussing her case, she allegedly reminded respondent judge of the motion filed by her father, Atty. Eustacio Veloso, pertaining to a case pending before his sala.  The judge told her to convey to her father that he could not act on the motion yet since he needed more time to review the voluminous records of the case.  She promised to relay the message to her father.  Purportedly as a gesture of appreciation, Judge Caminade spontaneously placed his hand on her thigh and pressed it while saying “Thank you” to her.  He then playfully took her hand and kissed it.  She allegedly did nothing to protest such action because she knew that he was just teasing her.  He also opined that the complaint was filed by Atty. Veloso in order to erase any doubt about her moral values, knowing that Atty. Limbaga and Mr. Capangpangan were present when he kissed her hand.

Further, Judge Caminade explained that he had a tendency to tease and play pranks on his friends, both male and female, because of his congenial nature.  In fact, even before his appointment to the judiciary, it had been his natural way of complimenting women for their physical attributes but he never had any malice or lustful designs in his actuations.    

On the other hand, Joeylynn Quiñones, Clerk III in the office of Judge Caminade, claimed that respondent judge squeezed her hand on three different occasions in February 2001.  She noticed that the judge would squeeze her hand whenever she gave him the case records.  Although offended by his actions, Joeylynn opted to remain silent out of deference to or fear of respondent judge.

Then, on February 14, 2001, Judge Caminade asked her to open a jar of sugar; he was unable to do so due to his disability of having only one hand.  Joeylynn entered the judge’s chambers and handed him the jar.  Once inside, he greeted her “Happy Valentine’s Day” and asked “Asa mo gabii?” (Where did you go last night?).  She replied “Sa balay” (At home).  To Joeylynn’s surprise, he suddenly grabbed her right hand and kissed her on the cheek.  She was so shocked that she could not react.  Thereafter, Joeylynn left the chambers and cried.

From then on, Joeylynn avoided entering respondent’s chambers, asking the court aide or legal researcher instead to bring in the case records even when respondent called for her.  On March 23, 2001, upon her request, Joeylynn was detailed to Branch 16 of RTC Cebu City and eventually to the Office of the Clerk of Court.

Judge Caminade filed his comment on May 18, 2001 and reiterated his earlier defense that he was just being friendly to his staff.  He admitted pressing Joeylynn’s hand on several occasions but insisted that they were innocent gestures.  On February 14, 2001, he merely greeted Joeylynn and kissed her on the cheek as it was Valentine’s Day.  He asserted that Joeylynn merely misinterpreted his actions towards her.

The two administrative complaints were consolidated and referred to then Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales[1] of the Court of Appeals for investigation, report and recommendation.

In her report received by this Court on September 5, 2002, Justice Morales found Judge Caminade guilty of violating Canon 2 and Rule 2.01 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Canon 3 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and recommended that respondent be suspended for six months without pay.

After carefully evaluating the records of this case, we find the conclusions and recommendation of the investigating justice to be adequately supported by the evidence and based on applicable law and jurisprudence.

Those who serve in the judiciary, particularly justices and judges, must not only know the law but must also possess the highest degree of integrity and probity, and an unquestionable moral uprightness both in their public and private lives.[2]

In this particular case, we are principally concerned with the moral fiber of Judge Caminade.  His penchant for teasing and showing unwelcome affection to women indicates a certain moral depravity and lack of respect towards his female employees.  They were his subordinates and he should have treated them like his own children.  Instead, he took advantage of his superior position. 

We have repeatedly held that, while every office in the government service is a public trust, no position exacts greater moral righteousness than a seat in the judiciary.[3]  Performing as he does an exalted role in the administration of justice, a judge must pay a high price for the honor bestowed upon him.  Thus, a judge must comport himself at all times in such a manner that his conduct, official or otherwise, can weather the most exacting scrutiny of the public that looks up to him as the epitome of integrity and justice.[4]

Canons 3[5] and 4[6] of the new Code of Judicial Conduct mandate, respectively, that “judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in the view of the reasonable observer” and that “judges shall avoid improprieties and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities.”  These very stringent standards of decorum are demanded of all magistrates and employees of the courts.

Judge Caminade’s behavior must be sanctioned.  We are neither amused by his claims of innocent playfulness nor impressed by his excessive display of congeniality. He acted beyond the bounds of decency, morality and propriety.  He failed to meet the standard of conduct embodied in the Code of Judicial Conduct. His abusive and distasteful acts unmistakably constituted sexual harassment because they resulted in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for his female subordinates. 

Section 8 of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended, considers a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct as a serious offense. A respondent found guilty of a serious charge may be meted the penalty of: (1) dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the Court may determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned or controlled corporations, provided, that the forfeiture of benefits shall in no case include accrued leave credits;  (2) suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than three but not exceeding six months; or  (3) a fine of  more than P20,000 but not exceeding P40,000.

We find it proper to adopt Justice Morales’ recommendation to suspend respondent judge for six months without pay.

WHEREFORE, respondent judge is found guilty of violating Canons 3 and 4 of the new Code of Judicial Conduct by committing sexual harassment and is hereby SUSPENDED from office for a period of six months without pay effective immediately, with the warning that a repetition of the same offense shall be punished with dismissal from the service.

SO ORDERED.

Vitug, (Chairman), and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., concur.
Carpio Morales, J., no part.



[1] Now Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

[2] Talens-Dabon vs. Arceo, 259 SCRA 354 [1996].

[3] Cabulisan vs. Pagalilauan, 297 SCRA 593 [1998].

[4] Vedaña vs Valencia, 295 SCRA 1 [1998].

[5] Formerly Canon 3 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics.

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 his everyday life, should be beyond reproach.

[6] Formerly Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

A judge should avoid impropriety and appearance of impropriety in all activities.

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