SC: Judge should exemplify HONEST public service

The Supreme Court has repeatedly reminded members of the Judiciary to so conduct themselves as to be beyond reproach and suspicion, and to be free from any appearance of impropriety in their personal behavior, not only in the discharge of their official duties but also in their everyday lives. For no position exacts a greater demand on the moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual than a seat in the Judiciary. Judges are mandated to maintain good moral character and are at all times expected to observe irreproachable behavior so as not to outrage public decency. The Supreme Court has adhered to and set forth the exacting standards of morality and decency, which every member of the judiciary must observe. A magistrate is judged not only by his official acts but also by his private morals, to the extent that such private morals are externalized. He should not only possess proficiency in law but should likewise possess moral integrity for the people look up to him as a virtuous and upright man.

The Supreme Court explained the rationale for requiring judges to possess impeccable moral integrity, thus: The personal and official actuations of every member of the Bench must be beyond reproach and above suspicion. The faith and confidence of the public in the administration of justice cannot be maintained if a judge who dispenses it is not equipped with the cardinal judicial virtue of moral integrity, and if he obtusely continues to commit an affront to public decency. In fact, moral integrity is more than a virtue; it is a necessity in the judiciary.

The Supreme Court also stressed in Castillo v. Calanog, Jr. that: The code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free of [even] a whiff of impropriety not only with respect to his performance of his judicial duties, but also to his behavior outside his sala and as a private individual. There is no dichotomy of morality: a public official is also judged by his private morals. The Code dictates that a judge, in order to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, must behave with propriety at all times. As we have very recently explained, a judges official life can not simply be detached or separated from his personal experience. Thus:

Being the subject of constant public scrutiny, a judge should freely and willingly accept restrictions on conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.

A judge should personify integrity and exemplify honest public service. The personal behavior of a judge, both in the performance of official duties and in private life should be above suspicion.

Judge Pacuribot miserably failed to measure up to these exacting standards. He behaved in a manner unbecoming a judge and model of moral uprightness. He betrayed the people's high expectations and diminished the esteem in which they hold the Judiciary in general. (A.M. No. RTJ-06-1982-1983; December 14, 2007)