A Manila metropolitan trial court (MeTC) judge who hurled homophobic slurs against litigants during court proceedings has been suspended for 30 days and fined P50,000 by the Supreme Court (SC).
Found guilty of simple misconduct and conduct unbecoming of a member of the judiciary was Judge Jorge Emmanuel Lorredo of Manila MeTC Branch 26.
In a decision penned by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, the SC adopted the findings and recommendation of the Judicial Integrity Board (JIB) which found Judge Lorredo administratively liable for conduct unbecoming of a judge for his homophobic (prejudice or dislike against gay people) remarks, and for simple misconduct after he imposed his religious beliefs in the conduct of his judicial functions.
A summary of the decision issued by the SC’s public information office (PIO) said that in 2019, a complaint was filed by litigants Marcelino Espejon and Erickson Cabonita – parties in an ejectment case — who alleged that the judge showed bias and partiality against them and their sexual orientation by persistently asking them if they are homosexuals and telling them that homosexuality is a “sin.”
They said among the utterances hurled by the judge were: “xxx pagka-bading, tomboy, lesbian, ayaw ng Diyos yun xxx (Gays, lesbians, God doesn’t like that).” “So pag meron kang lesbian relationship, paparusahan yung anak mo. Dengvaxia, di ba? [Kayo din] kasi may kasalanan kayo sa Diyos eh (If you have a lesbian relationship, your child will be punished, Dengvaxia, right? Because you have sinned against God).”
The SC ruled that the judge’s remarks constitute homophobic slurs, “which have no place in our courts of law.”
For issuing the inappropriate statements, the SC said the judge violated the New Code of Judicial Conduct which imposes on judges the duty to ensure equal treatment of all before the courts and to understand diversity arising from race, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation, and social and economic status, among others.
“The fact that they were made by no less than a magistrate should rightfully upset the Court and must perforce be penalized… It should come as a matter of course for all judges to desist from any word or conduct that would show or suggest anything other than inclusivity for members of the LGBTQUIA+community” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual), the SC said.
Also, the SC said the judge’s remarks violated Civil Service Commission (CSC) Resolution No. 01-0940, or the Administrative Disciplinary Rules on Sexual Harassment Cases, which applies to all officials and employees in government.
It said that under CSC Resolution No. 01-0940, work-related sexual harassment may be committed where the acts might reasonably be expected to cause discrimination, insecurity, discomfort, offense or humiliation.
At the same time, the SC found that the judge, who admitted to having settled 101 cases using the Bible, allowed his religious beliefs to interfere with his judicial functions with the Judge’s attempts to make a connection between the litigants’ supposed sexual orientation and the ejectment case they were involved in and his inclination to use Biblical passages and teachings to the case.
Thus, the SC said Judge Lorredo acted with partiality and failed to fulfill his duty to not only act with impartiality but to appear impartial at all times.
As “front-liners who serve as the visible representations of the judicial branch at the grassroots level,” judges must avoid not only impropriety but the appearance of impropriety, the SC said.
It then reminded trial court judges that their actions should always be seen by the public as guided by the law and not by their personal or religious beliefs to avoid perception of “displays of religiosity as encroachment or interference with our system of justice.”