Lady atty. KISSED by judge files admin case; SC: "Kiss, just an act of friendship, camaraderie"

On November 21, 2000, she reported for work after her vacation in the United States, bringing gifts for the three judges of the CTA, including respondent. In the afternoon of the same day, he entered her room and greeted her by shaking her hand. Suddenly, he pulled her towards him and kissed her on her cheek.

On December 28, 2000, while respondent was on official leave, he called complainant by phone, saying he will get something in her office. Shortly thereafter, he entered her room, shook her hand and greeted her, "Merry Christmas." Thereupon, he embraced her and kissed her. She was able to free herself by slightly pushing him away. Complainant submitted the Joint Affidavit[2] of Ma. Imelda C. Samonte and Anne Benita M. Santos, CTA Tax Specialists, to prove that respondent went to her office that day. xxx
Administrative complaints against members of the judiciary are viewed by this Court with utmost care, for proceedings of this nature affect not only the reputation of the respondents concerned, but the integrity of the entire judiciary as well.

We have reviewed carefully the records of this case and found no convincing evidence to sustain complainants charges. What we perceive to have been committed by respondent judge are casual gestures of friendship and camaraderie, nothing more, nothing less. In kissing complainant, we find no indication that respondent was motivated by malice or lewd design. Evidently, she misunderstood his actuations and construed them as work-related sexual harassment under R.A. 7877.

As aptly stated by the Investigating Justice: "A mere casual buss on the cheek is not a sexual conduct or favor and does not fall within the purview of sexual harassment under R.A. No. 7877. Section 3 (a) thereof provides, to wit: 'Sec. 3. Work, Education or Training - related Sexual Harassment Defined. - Work, education or training-related sexual harassment is committed by an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other, regardless of whether the demand, request or requirement for submission is accepted by the object of said Act. (A.M. No. CTA-01-1. April 2, 2002)

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