Perfecto v. Esidera (A.M. No. RTJ-11-2270; January 31, 2011)

CASE DIGEST: ELADIO D. PERFECTO, complainant, vs. JUDGE ALMA CONSUELO DESALES-ESIDERA, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Catarman, Northern Samar, respondent.

FACTS: Eladio filed a complaint against Judge Alma Consuelo Esidera, accusing her of soliciting and receiving the amount of one thousand pesos from practitioner Atty. Yruma and the same amount from Public Prosecutor Diaz, allegedly to defray expenses from a religious celebration and barangay fiesta. Attached to the Complaint was an affidavit executed by Prosecutor Ching who claimed to have witnessed the first incident and heard that respondent solicited the same amount from Diaz. There were also claims regarding respondent's conduct in performing her duties and dealing with colleagues unprofessionally.
The respondent denied the allegations.

The Office of the Court Administrator recommended that respondent be faulted for Impropriety and Unbecoming Conduct.


Is the respondent guilty of Impropriety and Unbecoming Conduct?
HELD: While the Court finds the Evaluation and Recommendation of the OCA that respondent be charged with Impropriety and Unbecoming Conduct to be well-taken, it deems the recommendation for the imposition of a fine in the amount of P5,000.00 to be insufficient as would impress upon her the gravity of the indictment. Respondents improprieties as manifested in, among other things, her lack of discretion and the vicious attack upon the person of Prosecutor Ching as characterized by her use of uncalled for offensive language prompts this Court to raise the fine to Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00).

Specifically with respect to respondents alleged solicitation from Prosecutor Diaz, albeit Prosecutor Ching merely claimed to have "heard" of it, respondent did not deny it categorically as she merely, as reflected above, brushed off Prosecutors Chings Affidavit as coming from one with a "dubious personality" and possessed of a "narcissistic personality disorder." With respect to the alleged solicitation from Prosecutor Diaz, respondent never disclaimed or disavowed the same.

Respondents admission of having received the sum of P1,000.00 from Atty. Yruma albeit allegedly as a mere accommodation to the latter, and her failure to disclaim the same act with respect to Prosecutor Diaz, only confirms her lack of understanding of the notion of propriety under which judges must be measured.

Respondents act of proceeding to the Prosecutors Office under the guise of soliciting for a religious cause betrays not only her lack of maturity as a judge but also a lack of understanding of her vital role as an impartial dispenser of justice, held in high esteem and respect by the local community, which must be preserved at all times. It spawns the impression that she was using her office to unduly influence or pressure Atty. Yruma, a private lawyer appearing before her sala, and Prosecutor Diaz into donating money through her charismatic group for religious purposes.

To stress how the law frowns upon even any appearance of impropriety in a magistrates activities, it has often been held that a judge must be like Caesars wife - above suspicion and beyond reproach. Respondents act discloses a deficiency in prudence and discretion that a member of the judiciary must exercise in the performance of his official functions and of his activities as a private individual.


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