SC dismisses judge in San Beda law student hazing case

Lian Buan

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The Supreme Court says the judge 'exhibited bias, if not incompetence and ignorance of the law'

HAZING. Marc Andrei Marcos, a legal management graduate of UST, studied law in San Beda before he died during a hazing rite in July 2012. Photo from UST AB Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has dismissed from service Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Perla Cabrera-Faller over “gross ignorance of the law” for her actions and eventual dismissal of charges against fratmen involved in the Marc Andrei Marcos hazing case in 2012.

Cabrera-Faller, then executive judge of the Cavite RTC Branch 90, handled the criminal charges filed against members of the Lex Leonum Fraternitas for the death of Marcos, who was then a first year law student at the San Beda College of Law.

The SC found Cabrera-Faller guilty of the administrative charges of gross ignorance of the law and violation of the code of judicial conduct for her actions during the case.

Frat members Jenno Antonio Villanueva, Emmanuel Jefferson Santiago, Richard Rosales, Mohamad Fyzee Alim, Chino Daniel Amante, Julius Arsenio Alcancia, Edrich Gomez, Dexter Circa, Gian Angelo Veluz, Glenn Meduen, alias Tonton, alias Fidel, alias E.R., and alias Paulo were indicted for the violation of the anti-hazing law after a preliminary investigation.

In June 2013, Cabrera-Faller issued an arrest warrant against the suspects. Ten days after, however, she recalled the warrants against Rosales, Alim, and Amante, saying she had issued the warrants inadvertently.

Cabrera-Faller also ordered the archiving of all the case records.

In the same year, Cabrera-Faller dismissed the charges against the frat members for lack of probable cause and ample evidence. (READ: Senate eyes new anti-hazing law but not total ban)

Marcos’ grandfather, retired Judge Martonino R. Marcos, filed the administrative charges against Cabrera-Faller and accused her of having been bribed to drop the cases.

Bias, incompetence, ignorance of the law

Cabrera-Faller, in her counter-affidavit, denied the accusation of corruption and said she could not be charged administratively with the alleged offenses. She said, citing an SC ruling: “the alleged errors committed by a judge pertaining to the exercise of his adjudicative functions cannot be corrected through administrative proceedings but should instead be assailed through judicial remedies.”

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) had earlier found Cabrera-Faller liable for the charges and suspended the judge for 6 months.

In its ruling, the SC imposed the penalty of dismissal from service saying “without a quibble, Judge Cabrera-Faller demonstrated lack of knowledge and understanding of the basic rules of procedure when she issued the questioned orders.” 

According to the SC, Cabrera-Faller “exhibited bias, if not incompetence and ignorance of the law” when she archived case records without grounds.

“What she did was unprecedented. She did not even bother to wait for the return of the warrants or wait for the six-month period,” the ruling said.

The High Court also said that Cabrera-Faller abdicated judicial function when she recalled the warrants by merely saying they were issued inadvertently.

 “It could only mean that she failed to comply with her constitutional mandate to personally determine the existence of probable cause before ordering the issuance of the warrants of arrest,” the ruling said.

Finally, the Supreme Court said Cabrera-Faller “hastily dismissed” the charges and that they cannot ignore the judge’s “lack of prudence” in her action.

“Noteworthy is the fact that the Information for the said case was instituted by the Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP) on May 10, 2013. Thereafter, on June 3, 2013, Judge Cabrera-Faller issued the order finding probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest.  On June 13, 2013, or barely 10 days from the time Judge Cabrera-Faller issued an order finding probable cause for the issuance of the warrants, she recalled the warrants against three accused due to oversight or inadvertence. And on August 15, 2013, in her Omnibus Order, she lifted the warrants of arrest she issued and dismissed the case for lack of probable cause,” the ruling said.

Marcos’ family has already filed a motion for reconsideration appealing the dismissal of charges. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.