Republic of the Philippines
A.M. No. RTJ-12-2333 October 22, 2012
(Formerly OCA-I.P.I. No. 11-3721-RTJ)
PROSECUTORS HYDIERABAD A. CASAR, JONALD E. HERNANDEZ, DANTE P. SINDAC and ATTY. JOBERT D. REYES, Complainants,
CORAZON D. SOLUREN, Presiding Judge Regional Trial Court, Branch 96, Baler, Aurora, Respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
Before the Court is an administrative complaint against Judge Corazon D. Soluren (Judge Soluren) of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 96, Baler, Aurora.
In a Complaint,1 dated August 12, 2011, Assistant Provincial Prosecutors Hydierabad A. Casar, Jonald E. Hernandez, Dante P. Sindac and Aurora, charged Judge Soluren with Gross Misconduct.
Complainants aver that on June 20 and 22, 2011 and July 19, 2011, Judge Soluren went to the Aurora Provincial Jail and conferred with the inmates including those who had pending cases before her sala. This was in contravention of Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) Circular No. 03-2010, dated January 12, 2010, which suspended the conduct of jail visitation and inspection by Executive Judges and Presiding Judges pending results of the re-examination of the provisions of A.M. No. 07-3-02-SC.
According to complainants, the purpose of Judge Soluren’s visit was to persuade the prisoners into signing a letter addressed to then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, calling for the dismissal of the administrative complaint filed against her by Atty. Juliet M. Isidro-Reyes, District Public Attorney, Baler, Aurora, and for the removal of Judge Evelyn Atienza-Turla as Presiding Judge of RTC, Branch 6, Baler, Aurora.
Attached to the complaint were: the certification2 issued by the Prison Guard Administrator as proof of Judge Soluren’s unauthorized visits to the provincial jail and the affidavit3 executed by Dolores P. Sollano, her companion during the visits. Also presented was a subsequent handwritten letter4 signed by the detention prisoners admitting that they were not aware of the import of the letter to the Chief Justice due to lack of explanation by Judge Soluren. They wished to withdraw the same, not wanting to be a part of the conflict between Judge Soluren and the Public Attorney’s Office of Baler, Aurora.
In her Comment,5 dated November 5, 2011, Judge Soluren admitted that she went to the Aurora Provincial Jail on four (4) occasions but they were not official jail visitations because she went there without the presence and assistance of her staff member and not in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court.
After the filing of the Reply by complainants and the Rejoinder by Judge Soluren, the OCA issued its Report, dated August 17, 2012, finding Judge Soluren guilty of Simple Misconduct and imposing upon her a fine of ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) to be deducted from her retirement benefits in view of her compulsory retirement from the service on January 29, 2012.
The Court resolves to adopt the recommendation.
Judge Soluren opened herself to charges of impropriety when she went to the Aurora Provincial Jail to solicit the sympathies and signatures of the prisoners, especially those who had pendings cases in her sala.
This Court has consistently enjoined judges to avoid not just impropriety in their conduct but even the mere appearance of impropriety6 because the appearance of bias or prejudice can be damaging as actual bias or prejudice to the public’s confidence on the Judiciary’s role in the administration of justice. To say the least, using detention prisoners who had cases before Judge Soluren cannot be countenanced.1âwphi1
WHEREFORE, the Court RESOLVES to APPROVE and ADOPT the findings and recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator, Accordingly, the Court finds retired Judge Corazon D. Soluren, Regional Trial Court, Branch 96, Baler, Aurora, GUILTY of SIMPLE MISCONDUCT and imposes upon her the penalty of FINE in the amount of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) to be deducted from her retirement/gratuity benefits.
JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
|TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO*
|DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
ROBERTO A. ABAD
* Designated acting member, per Special Order No. 1343, dated October 9, 2012.
1 Rollo, pp. 1-9.
2 Id. at 10.
3 Id. at 11.
4 Id. at 17.
5 Id. at 55-68.
6 San Juan v. Bagalasca, 347 Phil. 696 (1997).
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation