Atty. Manuel T. Ubarra, on behalf of his client Juanito A. Calderon, charges respondent, the Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Pulilan, Bulacan, with grave misconduct, knowingly rendering an unjust judgment, the violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and the failure to decide within the mandated ninety-day period. Accused Roberto Cruda worked as a houseboy of the herein respondent; by that time, he (Calderon) had already observed the latter’s partiality in favor of the said accused. Roberto Cruda married Annabelle V. Manlangit respondent’s youngest sister; it was the respondent herself who solemnized that marriage other office, as evidenced by the marriage contract; despite such marriage, respondent did not inhibit herself from hearing the criminal case and instead proceeded to render and promulgate a judgment acquitting Cruda, her brother-in-law.
Earlier, however, respondent voluntarily inhibited herself in the other case to avoid suspicion, partiality or bias because accused Cruda had already become her relative by affinity. Calderon thus asserts that the respondent acted with bias or partiality in rendering the decision in the criminal case.
Anent the specific charges leveled against her, respondent claims that the trial on the merits of the criminal case was terminated. After the court adjourned, Romeo saw the respondent in her chambers to inform her that Roberto and Annabelle had eloped. Both were, however, married in her office with her as the solemnizing officer. Thereupon, she inhibited herself. She maintains that the ground for her inhibition in the criminal case had not yet existed when she tried the same as she became related to Roberto Cruda within the prohibited degree only on 9 August 1991, long after the termination of the trial therein.
She denies having knowingly rendered an unjust judgment in favor of her brother-in-law because she “was persuaded to dismiss the same not on account that the guilt of Cruda was not proven beyond reasonable doubt but by the very reason that both the private complainant and the accused therein were in pari delicto.”
WHETHER OR NOT the doctrine of in pari delicto is applicable in the criminal case rendered by the judge.
No. We find the application of the pari delicto theory in a criminal case to be strange, to the least. In the first place, the rule on pari delicto is a rule in civil law. First, in view of the broader grounds of public policy, the rule may not be invoked against the State. And second, in the prosecution of public crimes, the complainant is the State — i.e., the People of the Philippines — while the private offended party is but a complaining witness. Any criminal act perpetrated by the latter on the occasion of the commission of the crime, or which may have given rise to the criminal act imputed to the accused is not the act or conduct of the State and can by no means find it under the doctrine of pari delicto.
In spite of all this, however, the respondent may not necessarily be liable for rendering an unjust judgment as there is no convincing evidence on record to show that she knew such judgment to be unjust and that she rendered the same with the conscious and deliberate intent to commit an injustice. She could only be as she is hereby found, guilty of gross ignorance of the law.
* Case digest by Prince Dave C. Santiago, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018