Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Supreme Court sacks Cotabato judge

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed from the judicial service a regional trial court (RTC) judge in Cotabato City who had annulled several marriages even without conducting hearings. In a decision released yesterday, the SC also ordered the disbarment of Judge Cader Indar of Cotabato City RTC Branch 14 after he was found guilty of gross misconduct and dishonesty. “Considering that Judge Indar is guilty of gross misconduct and dishonesty, constituting violations of the Lawyer’s Oath, and Canons 1 and 7 and Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, Judge Indar deserves disbarment,” read the per curiam ruling (jointly written by justices during deliberations). The SC also directed the forfeiture of all benefits due Indar, except accrued leave benefits, if any, with prejudice to re-employment in any branch of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations. The ruling was served to the Office of the Ombudsman and Integrated Bar of the Philippines for circulation to all courts in the country. The SC affirmed the recommendation of Court of Appeals Justice Abraham Borreta, who conducted the investigation on the complaint against Indar. Indar, according to the SC, issued decisions on numerous annulment of marriage cases which do not exist in the records of Shariff Aguak RTC Branch 15 or the clerk of court’s office of the Cotabato City RTC. The SC said it “condemns Judge Indar’s reprehensible act of issuing decisions that voided marital unions, without conducting any judicial proceedings.” “Such malfeasance not only makes a mockery of marriage and its life-changing consequences but likewise grossly violates the basic norms of truth, justice, and due process,” it said. “Not only that, Judge Indar’s gross misconduct greatly undermines the people’s faith in the judiciary and betrays public trust and confidence in the courts. Judge Indar’s utter lack of moral fitness has no place in the Judiciary. Judge Indar deserves nothing less than dismissal from the service.” Indar, also the acting presiding judge of Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao RTC Branch 15, failed to submit his answer to the charges, alleging he did not receive notices sent by the investigating justice. But the SC said Indar was given “ample opportunity to controvert the charges against him.” The case stemmed from reports by the civil registrars of Manila and Quezon City that they had received an alarming number of decisions, resolutions and orders on annulment of marriage cases allegedly issued by Indar. A judicial audit of the Shariff Aguak RTC Branch 15 showed that the list of cases submitted by the civil registrars of Manila and Quezon City did not appear in the records of cases received, pending or disposed by the Shariff Aguak RTC Branch 15. The annulment decisions did not also exist in the records of Cotabato RTC Branch 14. The audit team further observed that the case numbers in the list submitted by the local civil registrars were not within the series of case numbers recorded in the docket books of either the Shariff Aguak RTC or Cotabato RTC. - By Edu Punay