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University of the Philippines College of Law

CPE, 1-D

Topic Religion Clauses
Case No. AM No. RTJ-05-1920 / Date
Case Name Concerned Trial Lawyers vs Veneracion
Ponente CORONA, j.

DOCTRINE
● Section 6, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct:

Judges, like any other citizen, are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and
assembly, but in exercising such rights, they shall always conduct themselves in such manner
as to preserve the dignity of the judicial office and the impartiality and independence of the
judiciary.

RELEVANT FACTS

● The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) received a letter from the Concerned Trial Lawyers of
Manila (members are not named in the letter) alleging misconduct and tardiness of Judge Lorenzo
Veneracion of Manila RTC Branch. 47.

● The letter alleged these things against the Judge:

o that he is reluctant to try petitions for declaration of nullity of marriages, despite their alleged
merit, by dwelling on technicalities,
▪ Instead he would lecture litigants in open court that the declaration of nullity of
marriage was not the proper remedy
o that he would force complainants to read and interpret Bible verses, and castigating them when
they fail to give the proper interpretation,
o that the judge is habitually tardy resulting in delay in disposition of cases.

● The OCA designated an investigator and here is what they found. Judge was really famous for having
litigants read from the Bible.
o Also, yes, there were withdrawn petitions for declaration of nullity of marriages but all of these
withdrawn cases were handled by one Atty. Rizalino Simbillo.
o In the Judge’s sala, there was also a considerable number of cases that were pending or unacted
upon (ex. cases not decided within 90-day-period, cases with pending motions or resolutions,
cases not reset for trial).
● Judge’s defense:
o On the delayed cases,
▪ he said that his branch was just designated to try family, tax, and heinous crime cases
but was changed to a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Hence, there was a lot of
work and many cases were misfiled due to lack of personnel and space.
▪ Plus, he suffered a mild stroke, his handwriting was affected and therefore could not
take notes while hearing cases, and so he had to on the stenographic notes certified
by the branch clerk of court, before the cases are deemed submitted for decision. In

 He also violated New Code of Judicial Conduct Sec 5 Canon 6 (on efficiently. 1-D many of the alleged unresolved cases. Tardiness or Delay. Tardiness or Delay. Tardiness: No evidence 2.09 (supervision of personnel) o RULE 3. reasonably. ISSUE ● W/N Judge was guilty of Gross Inefficiency. A judge should organize and supervise the court personnel to ensure the prompt and efficient dispatch of business and require at all times the observance of high standards of public service and fidelity. efficiently.” ● Judge prayed for optional retirement if he was found guilty of violations. belief. There were indeed letters showing that people appreciated the . Gross inefficiency:  Judge failed to decide some cases within the 90. association and assembly but they must still conduct themselves in a dignified manner to preserve the image of the judiciary. Judge said he had already dictated his decisions but the stenographer hasn’t transcribed them yet. Delayed Cases: SC accepted the Judge’s explanation 3. He presented thank you letters from litigants who got “enlightened. The judge’s practice of reading Bible verses in hearings is an exercise of his religious freedom.  W/N judge was guilty of NO misconduct for being excessive in his display of 1. 1.day period (required in Consti Sec 15(1) Art. o On the Bible-reading issue. ● W/N judge was guilty of misconduct for being excessive in his display of freedom of religion RATIO DECIDENDI Issue Ratio  W/N Judge was guilty of GUILTY OF ONLY GROSS INEFFICIENCY Gross Inefficiency. ▪ Judge did not deny it. fairly and with reasonable promptness  and Rule 3. University of the Philippines College of Law CPE. VIII). fairly doing judicial duties) o Judges shall perform all judicial duties. New Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 4 Sec 6 states that judges are freedom of religion also entitled to freedom of expression. 2.09. including the delivery of reserved decisions.” 3. SC said: “we hesitate to castigate him lest we trample on this right.

Veneracion LIABLE for gross inefficiency in A. No. Veneracion in A. and 2) Finding Judge Lorenzo B. Judge’s practice doesn’t impair his judicial duties anyway RULING WHEREFORE.M. RTJ-05-1920. 1-D Judge’s efforts in helping them find their way in life 4. University of the Philippines College of Law CPE. RTJ-01-1623 for which he is hereby FINED P11. judgment is hereby rendered: (1) DISMISSING for lack of merit the charge of misconduct and tardiness against Judge Lorenzo B.M. SEPARATE OPINIONS NOTES .000 to be deducted from the amount withheld from his retirement benefits. No.