SC axes Cavite judge in San Beda hazing case

MANILA — The Supreme Court dismissed from the service a judge of the Cavite Regional Trial Court (RTC) after being found administratively liable for dismissing the case against those involved in the death of San Beda law student Marc Andre Marcos due to hazing in 2012.

In an 18-page decision dated Jan. 24 but only released to the media on Wednesday, the SC dismissed from the service Cavite RTC Branch 90 Judge Perla V. Cabrera-Faller and ordered the forfeiture of her retirement benefits.

The decision was backed by 12 justices, including Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, while Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. took no part in the case.

The Court affirmed findings of the Office of the Court of Administration (OCA) which found Cabrera-Faller guilty of gross ignorance of the law and for violating Rule 1.01 and Rule 3.01, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct but modified its recommended penalty.

Instead of imposing a six-month suspension from the service without salary as recommended by the OCA, the Court held that the respondent judge should be dismissed from the service.

“Her utter disregard of the laws and rules of procedure, to wit: the immediate archiving of the criminal case, the recall of the warrant of arrest which she claimed were issued inadvertently and the hasty dismissal of the case displayed her lack of competence and probity, and can only be considered as grave abuse of authority. All these constitute gross ignorance of the law and incompetence,” the SC said.

The high court explained that when Cabrera-Faller archived the case, she did not cite any ground for the suspension of the proceedings adding that 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. By doing so, she exhibited bias, if not incompetence and ignorance of the law and jurisprudence. It could also be that she knew it, but she opted to completely ignore the law or the regulations. Certainly, it was a case of grave abuse of discretion as her actuations were not in accord with law or justice,” the SC added.

The SC also stressed that it could not ignore the lack of prudence of Cabrera-Faller with her hasty dismissal of the criminal case adding that although a motion to dismiss the case or withdraw the information is addressed to the court, its grant or denial must always be in the faithful exercise of judicial discretion and prerogative.

“Although no direct evidence was presented to show that Judge Cabrera-Faller was influenced by improper considerations, the Court cannot close its eyes in the manner by which Criminal Case No. 11862-13 was dismissed. Her actuations put in serious doubts her integrity and honesty, both as a person and a member of the Bench, qualities which every magistrate should possess,” the SC further explained.

Cabrera-Faller’s dismissal stemmed from her orders issued in 2013 recalling the arrest warrants against the accused, saying that these were inadvertently issued despite earlier finding of probable cause for the issuance of such; for sending the record of the case to the archives even prior to the return that accused could not be apprehended in violation of the six-month period under Administrative Circular (A.C.) No. 7-A-92; and for hastily dismissing the criminal case without hearing the side of the prosecution.

“Without a quibble, Judge Cabrera-Faller demonstrated lack of knowledge and understanding of the basic rules of procedure when she issued the questioned orders,” the Court ruled.

It can be recalled that the Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP) issued a resolution on May 8, 2013 recommending the prosecution of several Lex Leonum fraternity members for violation of Republic Act No. 8049, otherwise known as the Anti-Hazing Law.

In the same resolution, the OCP also recommended that Cornelio Marcelo, the person assigned to be the buddy or “angel” of Marc Andrei during the initiation rites, be discharged as a state witness.

Subsequently, the information for violation of R.A. No. 8049 was filed against 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 Tanton, alias Fidel, alias E.R., and alias Paulo, before the RTC.

Finding probable cause to sustain the prosecution of the accused, Judge Cabrera-Faller issued an order dated June 3, 2013, directing the issuance of a warrant of arrest and, at the same time, the archiving of the entire record of the case until the arrest of the accused.

On Aug. 15, 2013, acting on the separate motions for the determination of probable cause and to withhold issuance of warrants of arrest and extremely urgent motion to quash warrant of arrest filed by the accused, the respondent judge issued the an order quashing, lifting and setting aside the warrants for their arrest and ultimately dismissing the case against all of the accused for lack of probable cause.

In dismissing the case, Cabrera-Faller explained that she found no probable cause to indict the accused for violation of R.A. No. 8049 as the statement of Marcelo and those of the other accused failed to show that the accused conspired to inflict fatal initiation rites injuries on Marcos.