The Supreme Court has dismissed a Regional Trial Court Judge in Occidental Mindoro for 17 counts of “gross ignorance of law” in ordering the transfer of persons accused in drug-related cases.
The Supreme Court likewise ordered the forfeiture of Branch 45 Presiding Judge Jose Jacinto’s retirement benefits, except leave credits, and banned him from re-employment in any branch of the government.
The Court’s decision upheld the results of an investigation by the Office of the Court Administrator, which had acted on a complaint filed against Jacinto.
The Court said Jacinto violated RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 when he ordered the transfer of custody of suspects to rehabilitation centers or the Provincial Parole and Probation office, without ensuring requirements of Sections 54 and 57 of the law.
These provisions, covering the process for voluntary submission to treatment or rehabilitation, require the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) to approve applications before endorsement to the trial court.
The judge had said his orders, following motions by the accused, followed Sections 54 and 57 of RA 9165, and were consistent with the State policy to provide an effective mechanism for drug dependents’ reintegration to the society.
The Court said Jacinto’s rationale for his actions “distorted the provisions of RA 9165 in handling the custody of detainees.”
The OCA recommended dismissal, citing several previous administrative cases against Jacinto, who was held liable for gross ignorance of the law and conduct unbecoming of a public official.
The OCA also found that Jacinto allowed the unauthorized transfer from a national penitentiary to another jail of a prisoner for a period of more than eight months.
In cases of voluntary submission to treatment, a court that accepts the DDB endorsement should also order the medical examination of the applicant for drug dependency.
If this is confirmed, the court can order treatment and rehabilitation for a period from six months to one year, after which the case undergoes another DDB assessment.
The findings will determine whether a suspect is charged and placed under probation in lieu of imprisonment and/or fine, without prejudice to the decision in any pending court case.
The Court said Jacinto committed some of the accused to rehabilitation without DDB endorsement nor a medical examination.
Some of those transferred to the custody of the Provincial Parole and Probation Office also did not undertake voluntary rehabilitation, the Court added.
“Despite the clear directive of the law, respondent Judge ignored the proper procedure stated therein. Respondent Judge’s persistent disregard of the applicable statutory provisions despite his knowledge thereof, clearly reflect his bad faith and his predisposition to take the law into his own hands,” the SC ruling said.
“Bending and distorting the rules not only manifests the judge’s incompetence but puts into doubt the independence and impartiality of the judicial institution,” it added. – Rappler.com