SC suspends judge for alleged involvement in court records arson case

(Supreme Court of the Philippines}

(Supreme Court of the Philippines}

MANILA, May 14 (Mabuhay) – The Supreme Court (SC) has suspended a judge in Tagaytay City who was charged for his alleged involvement in the arson incident to destroy case records that could expose his wrongdoings.

In an en banc ruling, the SC through Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin imposed on Judge Edwin Larida Jr. “the penalty of suspension from office without pay for a period of two months, to be effective immediately upon notice, with a warning that sterner sanctions will be meted out to him upon his commission of similar acts or omissions[.]”

The SC also dismissed the charges against the judge for lack of evidence to support them, namely: (a) extorting money from detained accused Raymund Wang; (b) defying the directive of the High Court; (c) improperly granting bail; (d) receiving a bribe in exchange for granting Jayson Espiritu’s motion to quash the information in a criminal case; (e) granting the petition for the issuance of owner’s duplicate copies of various certificates of title of land under questionable circumstances; and (f) involvement in the fire that razed the records room of Tagaytay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 18.

It also dismissed the letter-complaint of Jayson Marticio dated Oct. 20, 2008 due to his lack of interest to prosecute it.

A fire occurred at the records room of the Tagaytay City RTC Branch 18 on Oct. 12, 2008.

Branch Clerk of Court Atty. Stanlee Calma immediately reported the fire as a clear case of arson to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA).

The investigating team uncovered anomalies supposedly committed by Larida leading to the filing of the complaint against him.

Because of this, on the same year Larida was ordered by the SC to cease and desist from hearing and deciding cases at the Tagaytay City RTC and designated him as Assisting Judge of the Malabon City RTC Branch 74.

In the en banc ruling, the SC absolved Larida “because no evidence directly linking him to the arson incident was presented.”

“It further appears that at the time of the occurrence of the fire, Judge Larida was hospitalized for a kidney injury that he had sustained from a fall on the night of October 9, 2008,” the SC said.

“Equally notable is that the forensic report…issued by the Philippine National Police Cavite Provincial Crime Laboratory Office on November 12, 2008 showed that one of the latent prints lifted from the crime scene belonged to Romelito Fernando, a personnel who had testified against Judge Larida during the investigation,” it added.

The SC said that the judge ought not to be sanctioned except upon a proper charge, and only after due investigation and with competent proof.

It meted out a consolidated penalty against Larida, saying that the judge has been “found guilty of a less serious charge for not complying with the directive of [the court] to send an inventory of locally-funded employees to the Supreme Court within one month from notice of the circular, and of allowing locally funded employees to perform more than merely clerical tasks; and of a light charge for unbecoming conduct for not causing the investigation of the solicitations of commission from a bonding company committed by three employees assigned to his court.” (MNS)

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