By Rey Panaligan
Almost two years after his retirement in 2018, a former Makati City regional trial court (RTC) judge was held administratively liable by the Supreme Court (SC) on four counts of gross ignorance of the law and violation of a High Court order.
Not only did the SC penalize retired Judge Joselito C. Villarosa with a fine of P140,000 and forfeited his retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, it also barred him perpetually from being appointed in any government office.
The decision was handed down last January 28 and the ruling was mentioned last Thursday by Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta in his speech during the oath-taking of the national officers, regional directors, and deputies of the Philippine Judges Association (PJA).
Peralta reminded PJA officers “to follow the rules” as he stressed that “you cannot be officers if you are not good followers.”
The administrative cases against Villlarosa were investigated by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) which supervises for the SC all lower courts in the country.
After deliberating on OCA’s findings and recommendations, the SC found that Villarosa was liable for violating its directive in A.M. No. 03-3-03-SC issued on July 8, 2014 to transfer all commercial cases pending in his court which have not been tried or have been submitted for resolution.
A summary of decision released by the SC’s public information office (PIO) stated that “Villarosa deliberately failed to transfer eight commercial cases to Makati RTC, Branch 137 in violation of the said directive.”
The summary also stated:
“Likewise, it found that Villarosa committed gross ignorance of the law and procedure when he 1) transferred cases for Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) to Branch 149 without conducting the first stage of judicial proceedings in violation of the Revised Guidelines to Implement the Expanded Coverage of Court-Annexed Mediation and Judicial Dispute Resolution; 2) ordered the consolidation of a civil case pending in his court with a case pending in Branch 10 of Cebu City, RTC, in violation of Section 1, Rule 31 of the Rules of Court; 3) issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) in a civil case that was effective beyond the 20-day period prescribed in Section 5, Rule 158 of the Rules of Court and Administrative Circular No. 20-95; and 4) issued a TRO against the Department of Transportation and Communication in violation of Section 3 of R.A. 8975.
“The Court noted that Villarosa had also been previously found guilty in two other administrative cases ─ in A.M. No. RTJ-14-2410 where he was found guilty of gross ignorance of the law, gross inefficiency, and serious misconduct and was fined P10,000; and in A.M. No. RTJ-16-2474 where he was found guilty of undue delay in resolving a motion in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct and fined P20,000 with a stern warning that a similar act in the future would be dealt with more severely. Moreover, Judge Villarosa still has other pending administrative cases.
“The Court did not give weight to the reasons offered by Judge Villarosa as to the delay in the transfer of the subject commercial cases to Branch 137 since the former was well aware of the Court’s resolution which was duly received by his sala. It held that Judge Villarosa disregarded the Court’s directive based on his purported agreement with two other Judges that all commercial cases which have commenced trial shall remain with Branch 66.
“It stressed that resolutions of the Supreme Court cannot be overturned by a mere agreement among judges. Judge Villarosa did not offer any valid explanation as to the issuance of the questionable TRO.”
As of Friday afternoon, the SC has not posted a copy of the decision on its website.